published Friday, June 25th, 2010

Pet Company facing license suspension

Since the June 15 removal of more than 82 pets from the Pet Company at Hamilton Place, a state inspector has recommended that the store's license be suspended.

During the first day of a Chattanooga City Court trial before Judge Sherry Paty, Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspector Joe Burns said he had gone back to the store on June 22 and found some of the previous 90 violations still evident.

"I suggest they start proceedings to suspend their license," Mr. Burns told the court.

Attorneys Harry Cash and Mark Litchford, representing McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, pointed to a list of 43 citations, which contained 90 violations found by both Mr. Burns and Chattanooga animal services officer Marvin Nicholson.

Mr. Nicholson described an isolation room for sick animals as an 8-foot-by-10-foot closet that was hot with little or no water for the pets.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Attorney M. Andrew Pippenger, with the Pet Company, begins opening arguments against McKamey Animal Center after their mammals taken by McKamey center last week while Karen Walsh, McKamey Animal Center executive director, glances at attorneys Harry R. Cash, center, and Mark W. Litchford.

One German shepherd in the room had diarrhea, some animals had "matted feces" in their hair, according to witness statements. Multiple cages had broken cage bottoms with waste trays leaking urine, witnesses said.

Andrew Pippenger, attorney for United Pet Supply, the New Jersey-based parent company of Pet Company, argued that, since the store was inspected at 8 a.m., the staff had not had time to restock food and water nor do morning cleaning routines.

Christopher Brooks, a general vice president of United Pet Supply, told the court he arrived in Chattanooga the day after the pet removal to talk with the store's staff and evaluate perceived problems at the store.

Mr. Brooks said he first learned of many of the problems upon arrival but had known for "several weeks" that the air conditioning unit not operating fully.

"All that time you knew there were animals in the store didn't you?" asked Mr. Cash.

"Yes," Mr. Brooks replied.

The unit has two compressors, one of which hadn't worked for weeks leading up to the animal removal. Mr. Brooks said he'd signed paperwork to repair the unit but it had not been completed by June 15, the day of the animal removal.

On June 17, he said, the unit was repaired.

Animals removed:

* 32 dogs

* 6 rabbits

* 1 ferret

* 1 guinea pig

* 42 pocket pets -- hamsters, mice

Source: McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center

McKamey lawyers also asked about a Yorkshire terrier that had died within days of arriving at the store and a hamster that was found dead in a cage removed from the store.

Mr. Brooks told the court he did not learn of the dog's death until he arrived in Chattanooga.

The dog came to the store from a Kansas breeding organization on June 1, he confirmed in court. On June 3, the dog was deemed fit for sale by the store's contracted veterinarian and by June 7 the dog was dead, he said.

Mr. Pippenger focused much of his opening statement and other comments to federal guidelines that call for ventilation if animals are kept in an room at 85 degrees or higher for longer than four hours.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Animals housed, awaiting vet inspection

Article: Pet store animals taken to McKamey after months of complaints

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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Chaser said...

"The dog came to the store from a 'Kansas breeding organization'" - nice rhetorical spin here for puppy mill. It's really time to stop ignoring the facts behind the Pet Company and other pet retail stores. These animals are a commodity to them, nothing more. If you'd love an animal, why not adopt one in need for a reasonable fee complete with real vet care/vaccinations, one that's spayed or neutered, microchipped, and save them from potential euthanasia in an overcrowded shelter. Why do people think paying over @ $1,000 for an animal means they are getting something better/more luxurious?

June 25, 2010 at 11:01 a.m.
HappyGirl said...

Mall pet stores are notorious for purchasing animals from puppy mills. Imagine if mall management companies would set a standard to not rent to pet stores such as United Pet Supply and instead fill their spaces with pet stores run by the Humane Society?

June 25, 2010 at 11:17 a.m.
eshever said...

I'm not sure that this defense from the pet store will hold water. They probably are required to follow state and local laws. If they don't like these laws then they should have been more active in opposing them when they were being created. I know that Chattanooga has some of the worst, most draconian laws in the entire state when it comes to animals as far as pet ownership and breeding are concerned. I have no idea why pet owners and businesses with animals do not speak up when these horrible laws are being passed.

However, there is a very active bias against pet stores and commercial dog breeding as part of the animal rights movement that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual conditions of animals in the stores. There's been a petition to close this store for years regardless of conditions. This store has been targeted from the start. It would not surprise me if these are trumped up charges. If these charges are bogus then I hope the pet store gets their animals back. I don't think that an honest business should be shut down by a vocal minority. People have the right to be able to buy a pet from a pet store if that's what they want to do.

June 25, 2010 at 12:45 p.m.
libover30 said...

I moved here 4 years ago. My husband and I went to visit the Hamilton Mall and to my dismay, I saw the pet store. Being an animal activist, I went into the store and the conditions were so bad I spoke with the sales person and asked to speak with the manager. He in turn told me it wasn't that bad but they would clean up the cages.

I waited 2 weeks to go back and the conditions were no better. This has been going on for a long time now. We all know that these pet stores work with breeders who care nothing for these innocent creatures, and all I have to say is CLOSE THEM DOWN! Then go after the breeders and stop them. If there were laws in place that would protect these dogs and other little creatures we wouldn't be asking them to shut this store down.

If this store has been doing this for 4 years, they will continue to treat these creatures this way. They don't care, otherwise you would see a lot different attitudes and better conditions for these creatures. There are hundreds of stores like these where puppies and other little creatures live in horrible conditions before they are adopted. And their lives were hardly kind before they got to the store. Mostly they are sick and some will even die. The only way to stop this is to shut down stores like this.

There is an overpopulation of dogs and the idea that we need breeders is somewhat selfish. There are so many dogs and cats being killed because there isn't enough people to care for all of these innocents. These creatures don't deserve this!

June 25, 2010 at 6:51 p.m.
Soos54 said...

eshever - Are you insane? "Trumped up charges"? "A vocal minority"? Yes, people have the right to be able to buy a pet from a pet store but people who sell pets - whether its a store or an individual or a an adoption agency - should be responsible for their well-being. Bottom line, people should not abuse or neglect animals. It has nothing to do with animal rights; it's about doing the right thing.

June 25, 2010 at 7:05 p.m.
animallvr said...

Pet stores are disgusting and this store is typical of what they are ALL about. Animals are a comodity to them and they could care less about the fact that the animals have feelings and suffer. I hope the judge rules against the pet store. ADOPT . . . don't shop!

June 26, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.
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