Across the North Country the recent response from our readers about the charges against a Plattsburgh pet store owner for neglect and animal cruelty has shown how much we love our animals.
Many of our readers were angry, concerned, and unhappy with the quality of care given to kittens at the local pet store in Plattsburgh and took to social media to air their unhappiness.
“This is awful and makes me sick to my stomach,” wrote Jennifer Coupal Dwyer on The Burgh’s Facebook page.
In the case against Northern Puppies, the store owner Tammy Staley was charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty. Staley was charged for improperly caring for 18 cats, two of which were found dead in the shop. Three other kittens later died in the care of a veterinarian after being willingly surrendered to police. Two additional charges were for not providing two chow dogs, ages 2 and 7, with cages large enough to fit them.
Staley was arrested after medical tests on the kittens showed the cause of death as an intestinal parasite called coccidia. Other health problems included ring worm, malnutrition, ear mites, flees, eye and respiratory infections.
The strong, immediate response from the community was an indicator of just how quick society jumps to the defense of animals who cannot speak for themselves.
A.J. Wells wrote on The Burgh’s Facebook page: “I for one, hope that she never gets her license back to sell pets. She’s not owning any responsibility for this. Her excuse is that it happened because she was away from the store. So, if your child dies when you are ill, it’s OK? Ah, NO, you are still responsible. Innocent animals have died and suffered due to this woman’s actions! Or should I say inactions?”
The law requires that pet dealers offer a legal minimum standard of care to companion animals such as dogs and cats. Animals must be provided housing that is of adequate size and structurally sound and animals must be cared for or humanely euthanized.
In the case of Northern Puppies, Staley argued that she did provide veterinarian care, but said the death of the kittens was out of her hands simply because “cats get sick.” She also said that the animals in her care were not looked after because she was away recuperating from an operation at the same time that employees were on vacation.
But those excuses simply do not hold water. Yes, animals get sick, but it is up to their caregiver to follow through with a proper treatment of medicine to avoid death.
And, all small businesses deal with employees taking vacation or moving on to another job, but it is up to the owner to make sure the shop is covered — especially when that shop is a pet store. Letting both employees take vacation at the same time and then scheduling an operation during that time was irresponsible, plain and simple.
Clayton Smalley of Plattsburgh had a very similar opinion on The Burgh’s Facebook page: “As the business owner they’re still responsible. If your pets die because you’re not there to care for them it’s still your fault. If you were to hire negligent people, it’s still your fault. You have all responsibility for the place. Those problems didn’t happen overnight.”
This pet store is also not new to controversy. A year ago, photos were posted to Facebook showing animals living in filthy conditions. At the time, picketers protested in front of the store.
It is good to see people take a stand and speak out in instances of animal abuse, for a whole host of reasons. The most obvious is that they cannot speak for themselves, another is that animal abuse and cruelty is often a predecessor to other crimes like child and spousal abuse — even murder.
Dr. Harry Hovel, who spoke in May to a group of law enforcement officials in Essex County about investigating animal cruelty, said animal abuse can be a gateway or indicator of other problems, including cruelty to humans.
Therefore it is not just important for animal lovers to be vigilant for cases of animal abuse, but all of society, Hovel pointed out.
It wasn’t that long ago that district attorneys refused to prosecute animal abuse. Before that, cases of child and spousal abuse weren’t even considered a crime.
But community outrage has changed that thinking, and prosecutors now take a hard stand for those who often cannot stand for themselves.
Frederick Douglass once famously said: “find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”
It was refreshing to see that people stood up against the injustice that was dealt these animals. In the end, five kittens who were 100 percent dependant on their caregiver lost their lives.
If it weren’t for people speaking out about that, their lives would have been quietly lost in vein.