Police Rescue 67 Puppies Left Overnight in Van Behind New Jersey Pet Store
The puppies were found in cages, freezing and neglected, with no food or water
New Jersey authorities have launched an investigation into a pet store owner after more than sixty puppies were found kept in a van overnight on Monday, PEOPLE confirms.
Two Paramus police discovered the puppies early Monday morning at around 3 a.m. while on patrol, a press release by the Paramus Police Department states.
Officers Daniel Derienzo and Matthew Lombardo were doing routine checks of local business parking lots when they heard crying and whining coming from a white van allegedly parked behind a local pet store.
“[Officers] immediately smelled a strong scent of urine and feces emanating from the van,” the press release states.
When they looked inside the unlocked van they found stacks of “small metal crates containing two to four puppies each,” the press release continues.
While there was a space heater in the van, it did not provide any heat for the puppies. According to the press release, the temperature inside the van was 38 degrees – three degrees higher than the temperature outside.
The crates the puppies were found in were too small for some of the puppies to stand up in and some did not have any food or water, the press release states.
Police were able to confirm the van allegedly belonged to Vincent LoSacco, the owner of the pet store chain Just Pups.
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In February, the New Jersey SPCA charged LoSacco, who runs more than three Just Pups stores throughout the Garden State, with 269 counts of animal cruelty. Following the charges in February, a petition was started to shut down Just Pups.
Matt Stanton, a spokesperson for the NJSCPA tells PEOPLE LoSacco was charged because of record keeping issues and allegedly keeping sick dogs with healthy dogs.
According to Stanton, authorities allegedly found three dead dogs in one of Just Pups’ freezers that had not been recorded. Stanton says while keeping deceased dogs in a freezer is “standard procedure,” LoSacco allegedly did not reported the dogs’ death and didn’t even know they were there.
“You own a pet shop and you [have] three dogs in your freezer and you didn’t know about it? It’s just symbolic of his lack of control over the facility,” Stanton says.
“He thinks he’s selling hammers but he’s selling live creatures.”
Stanton says LoSacco could ask for help from local organizations but instead Stanton believes he is focusing on making a profit instead of caring for his puppies.
“I’ve been doing this for 14 years and I’ve never seen [this]. It’s gotten out of control,” Stanton tells PEOPLE.
Following the public backlash, the business owner made a video in response to the charges and shared it on his Facebook page.
The puppies were quickly taken to the Oradell Animal Hospital where they were individually evaluated and taken care of.
Nancy Miles, director of staff development at Oradell tells PEOPLE the hospital mobilized a team of additional staff to help with the physical evaluations.
While no charges have been filed against LoSacco, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident, PEOPLE confirms. “It is an active, ongoing investigation,” a spokesperson for the office says.
On Monday, the Paramus Health Department closed the Paramus brand of Just Pups store.
LoSacco could not be reached for comment.