PARAMUS — Protesters planned a demonstration Saturday outside an embattled pet shop that was shut down earlier this week after 67 puppies were found in a near-freezing van parked behind the store.

"The owner is a puppy mill breeder, transporter, middleman and seller of puppies. We want him shut down and prosecuted. This most recent 'situation is not his first offense," reads a message on the Facebook page Just Pups Protest.

The protest comes a day after a Superior Court judge denied Just Pups owner Vincent LoSacco's request to lift the municipal order shuttering his store until at least a Health Board hearing next month.

LoSacco, who owns a chain of pet stores in the state — including one that was closed in East Brunswick after the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued 267 violations — has said authorities misrepresented the condition of the puppies, which they said were found covered in their own feces.

Just Pups has become the latest focal point in an ongoing campaign by animal-welfare advocates against pet shops, which critics say mostly obtain their animals from so-called puppy and kitten mills that overbreed animals in inhumane conditions. Advocates say people interested in getting a pet should visit animal shelters or contact legitimate animal breeders.

In December, after the owner of an Avenel pet store was arrested on animal-abuse charges, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, introduced legislation to ban the commercial sale of cats and dogs from mills. The state's "pet lemon law" already protects customers who are sold sick animals by pet shops.

In January, state officials cited two dozen pet stores for violating Pet Purchase Protection Act provisions requiring that animal cages list breeding and medical histories.

The Paramus Board of Health has postponed their special meeting about the store on Route 17 until May 2. LoSacco had requested the delay to prepare for the hearing.

LoSacco also issued a press release on Friday repeating his explanation of the events leading to the discovery of the van. He said police tilted the van at a 45 degree angle to lift it onto a flat bed, which he said "horrified and traumatized" the puppies.

"Those actions are what caused the puppies to defecate excessively and uncontrollably, and then be forced to roll around in it. This was due to the fact that their ability to stay still, stationary and peaceful was taken from them," LoSacco says.

He blames police and medical personnel for the condition of the dogs.

"Any cold temperatures, trauma, and unsanitary conditions that those 67 puppies experienced from the time that they were born until Monday morning April 4, 2016 was solely caused by those that were claiming to be rescuing them from the same," LoSacco wrote in his release.

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