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NJ puppy store investigated after sick, dying dogs spur fear of parvo outbreak

Cooper, a dog that belonged to Ann Reeves
Cooper, a dog that belonged to Ann Reeves (Jennifer Doherty)

BRICK — The Ocean County Health Department is investigating allegations that a pet store sold puppies that died shortly after they were brought home.

Spokesman Brian Lippai told New Jersey 101.5 they are investigating complaints made about a couple of puppies sold  by a store operated by the Breeders Association of America on Route 70 in Brick. The store simply has the word “puppies” as a sign.

“We sent out our inspector on Tuesday and they are going to return on Wednesday,” Lippai said, adding that the inspectors have not filed a final report.

County investigators have yet to be determined whether parvo, a highly contagious virus that affects dogs and humans, was involved in the puppies’ deaths.

Jennifer Doherty, a tech who works at Brick Town Veterinary Hospital, said she has seen “countless sick animals” over her 12 years at the office sold at this store.

But the case of Cooper, a dog belonging to client Ann Reeves who died a week after being purchased at the store, was the “icing on the cake.” That pushed Doherty to take a more active role with her involvement with puppy mill awareness groups and create a Change.org petition calling for the closure of the store and to “drive the fact home that a lot of these dogs are very sick coming out of this store.”

“I personally tested Cooper’s body yesterday. (Ann) picked up the dog from the veterinary hospital that Breeders uses. She brought the dog to me at Brick Town Vet and I was able to obtain feces off the dog’s coat and I was able to get a positive test sample off the snout test for the parvo virus.

A representative for the store declined on Wednesday to comment for this story.

Lippai said the store has been inspected by the Ocean County Health Department as recently as January and received a “satisfactory” report.

Adam Christman, co-chief of staff at the Brick Town Veterinary Hospital, explained that the parvo virus is a highly infectious disease that appears in dogs in two different forms.

“The more common form is known for diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite. The less common one is a heart or cardiac form that affects heart muscles in very young puppies that can also lead to death, too,” Christiman explained.

“Proper vaccination protocol” has helped reduce cases in recent years, according to Christman.

Christman said he has treated several animals from the Brick facility for signs of upper respiratory infections, parasites, diarrhea and some congenital defects and said an investigation of the store is “long overdue.”

He said that he has heard from colleagues and other pet owners that “this store is really not selling healthy puppies with a good background history. That’s concerning. These puppies are very expensive. Some of them come from puppy mills, which we as a pet profession and a pet loving country should be avoiding.”

Christmas said that he prefers puppies be adopted and rescuing shelter animals.

“Pet stores like this one should not be around since they’re selling sick puppies.”

Lippai said inspectors look at a number of factors in a store to be sure certain criteria is maintained by the store’s owners, including housing, disease control, vet records and ventilation.  “There’s a state criteria they must follow,” Lippai added.

Lippai also said New Jersey has a “pet lemon law” in place that allows pet owners to report issues to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Joe Cutter contributed to this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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