PARAMUS — A New Jersey couple has filed a lawsuit against an embattled pet store and its owner after a puppy they purchased died from an illness.

In the lawsuit, which was filed last month in Superior Court in Bergen County, the Alpine couple alleges that the Cavalier King Charles spaniel they purchased from Just Pups's Paramus location on Feb. 20 appeared healthy, but within 48 hours of bringing the dog home, they learned it was "extremely ill."

Elliott Malone, the attorney representing the couple, said owner Vincent LoSacco was served with the complaint on Wednesday.

The civil complaint is the latest legal trouble for LoSacco, whose shops have faced a mountain of regulatory violations this year.

According to the lawsuit, the couple initially brought the sick dog — who they named "Cuddles" — to a veterinarian recommended by Just Pups, then to Cresskill Animal Hospital on Feb. 23. Initially, the dog was diagnosed with kennel cough, but two days later, X-rays confirmed that the dog had pneumonia. The pup was then transferred to Oradell Animal Hospital and eventually to Yonkers Animal Hospital, the attorney said.

On March 24, about a month after being diagnosed with pneumonia, Cuddles died, the attorney said.

Malone said the dog's illness was very difficult for the couple and their two young children who quickly "fell in love with the puppy."

"Unfortunately, the puppy spent a lot more time in hospitals than with the family. The puppy was home for a total of only four or five days," Malone told New Jersey 101.5.

Malone claims in the suit that two of the veterinarians that examined the dog signed certificates stating that Cuddles was "unfit for sale."

"As domestic pet sellers, (the) defendants knew or should have known that the dog was unfit for sale," the lawsuit states, adding that LoSacco and Just Pups "knowingly omitted information about the dog's fitness for sale." In addition, the pet store allegedly failed to comply with the Pet Purchase Protection Act by refusing to reimburse the couple for the medical bills or the purchase of the spaniel.

According to Malone, the couple spent upwards of $8,000 on veterinary bills to have Cuddles examined and cared for before his death earlier this year. The couple paid $1,637 for the purchase of the terrier. The plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement and damages for those costs.

Last Wednesday, LoSacco was ordered to pay $19,000 in restitution as a result of multiple health code violations discovered after 67 dogs were found in a near-freezing van behind his Paramus store in April.

LoSacco pleaded guilty to four violations, NorthJersey.com reported. Most of the hundreds of additional charges he originally faced in connection with the incident were dropped, the article states.

In early April, Paramus police found 67 puppies and small dogs crying and locked in small metal crates in near-freezing temperatures behind LoSacco's pet store. He has claimed the van was adequately equipped to keep the dogs safe and the temperature was warm enough.

LoSacco, who owns a chain of pet shops in New Jersey, faced hundreds of summonses as well as animal cruelty charges in Bergen County as a result of the Paramus discovery. He also faces summonses in Emerson and East Brunswick in connection with alleged violations at pet stores he owned in those towns. Both of those locations have since been closed.

In July, state officials sought to permanently ban the Just Pups chain and LoSacco from ever selling pets in New Jersey again — saying he repeatedly sold sick puppies to owners under false pretenses and refused to reimburse customers for puppies that died or required veterinary care.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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