published Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Pet store at mall closes


by Cliff Hightower

A pet store at Hamilton Place mall involved last year in controversy over treatment of its animals has shuttered its doors, a mall spokeswoman said Friday.

“I can confirm they have closed,” mall spokeswoman Catherine Wells said.

The Pet Company closed Thursday, she said, but she could not give reasons for the closure because of privacy laws.

Calls to the store’s parent company, New Jersey-based United Pet Supply, and the company’s attorney, Chattanooga-based Andy Pippenger, were not returned.

The store closed one year and one day after a state inspector and local animal welfare officials removed 82 animals from the store during a raid in June 2010.

Authorities said there were more than a dozen violations of animal cruelty laws at the store, including having no air conditioning for more than three weeks, no water present for animals, storing human and pet food together and having an isolation room that was 85 degrees.

Store officials said the state and local animal welfare officials exaggerated the claims.

After several court battles, which included a City Court judge calling a mistrial, a senior judge finally threw the court case out in October. He said retrying the case would present a double jeopardy for The Pet Company because the parent company never consented to its being called a mistrial.

Animal control officers handed the seized animals over to McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, including 32 dogs and puppies. Most of the puppies were placed in other Pet Company locations or sent to Hunt Co., a Missouri-based puppy wholesaler, according to McKamey officials.

Maryann Davis, a board member for East Tennessee Alliance for Animals, a nonprofit agency committed to animal welfare and education about animal welfare, said the group was ecstatic to hear of the closing. She said many pet stores operate as “puppy mills.”

“We are as happy as can be they are going bye-bye,” she said.

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