NJ pet shop owner now facing 134 animal cruelty criminal charges
PARAMUS — The owner of a pet store that was shut down earlier this month after puppies were found in a near-freezing van outside his business is now facing criminal charges.
Just Pups owner Vincent LoSacco, 50, and his brother Leonard LoSacco, 51, were charged Tuesday by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Animal Cruelty Task Force with 134 counts of animal cruelty.
Before the county prosecutor got involved, Vincent LoSacco already was facing 400 borough code violations in Paramus as well as hundreds of other charges related to his pet store in East Brunswick.
The charges stem from an incident on April 4 in which Paramus police officers discovered a van behind the Just Pups store on Route 17 with 67 puppies and small dogs inside, covered in feces and in near-freezing temperatures.
Officers spotted the van at about 2:59 a.m. and upon closer inspection, detected a foul odor coming from inside the vehicle, police said. Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said the officers also heard crying and whining noises coming from inside a white, 2002 Freightliner Sprinter van. The chief said police entered the van through an unlocked sliding door and discovered the puppies in crates.
The puppies did not have adequate access to food or water, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said Wednesday.
"The cages contained as many as four puppies and were so small that the larger puppies could not stand up inside them. In addition, at the time of the discovery, the temperature inside the van was measured at 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The puppies were subsequently transported to Oradell Animal Hospital, where they were evaluated and/or treated," the prosecutor said.
Authorities say LoSacco had picked the puppies up in Missouri before driving them to New Jersey, arriving on Sunday, April 3, early in the afternoon.
"With Vincent LoSacco’s knowledge, Leonard LoSacco parked the van in the far back parking lot and left the area, with the anticipation that the puppies would be unloaded the next day," the prosecutor said in a statemen. LoSacco's brother, an employee of Just Pups in Paramus, also faces the same animal cruelty charges.
In addition to the charges from the incident involving the Paramus location, LoSacco also faces 267 counts of animal cruelty filed against him last month by the NJ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in connection with the East Brunswick Just Pups store, where the remains of three dogs were found in a freezer. LoSacco faces fines that could top $100,000.
The NJSCPA alleged that the store lacked adequate infection control procedures, suffered from poor and improper veterinary care, and sick animals commingled with new animals. Several pet owners who purchased dogs at Just Pups alleged that the animals were found to be “sick and unfit for sale” after being examined by veterinarians, according to the NJSPCA.
LoSacco also operates Just Pups stores in Emerson and East Hanover.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.