About a dozen supporters of the Calverton animal shelter accused of selling sick and aggressive dogs sat in court Friday as a judge held up a temporary restraining order against the business.
Since mid-August, Precious Pups Rescue, a nonprofit company located on Middle Country Road, has been barred from adopting out dogs pending an investigation by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The state alleges Precious Pups’ managing director Laura Zambito falsified veterinary records, misrepresented the health of animals and failed to provide behavioral training for aggressive dogs.
Precious Pups’ attorney, Alan Sash, has denied the allegations and several former Precious Pups customers rallied to Ms. Zambito’s defense at the courthouse Friday afternoon.
“Laura takes dogs that need help and gives them love,” said Joyce Gross, who adopted a dog from Precious Pups. “Precious Pups has given good homes to so many good dogs. They are doing a good thing.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” said Rachel Wagner, who has adopted two dogs from Ms. Zambito. “My experience was excellent. Laura is going good things.”
On Friday, Mr. Sash reiterated those objections to the allegations and said that prolonging the restraining order was further damaging Ms. Zambito’s business, adding that the move unfairly implicates the company of guilt.
Instead, Mr. Sash requested the shelter be allowed to reopen with provisions, such as having a court monitor to visit the shelter.
The request was denied.
While voicing regret over the ruling’s potential impacts on Mr. Zambito’s business, Judge Tarantino decided to uphold the restraining order until the case can be brought to trial. Under the order, the dogs currently in her care can stay, or she can give them away. But no many can be exchanged for dogs.
“This pains the court,” he said. “This entire proceeding needs to be brought to trial relatively fast. I’m not going to take foot dragging.”
A trial date is expected for early October, the judge said.
The lawyer for the AG’s office, Rachael Arello said in court that Precious Pups is now complying with a subpoena for documentation on the animals. During initial subpoena hearings, Ms. Zambito admitted to not providing certain documents to customers, Ms. Arello said.
Court documents filed by the AG’s office in August claimed Precious Pups had been taking in stray dogs from kill shelters, putting them up for adoption and charging customers an “adoption fee” ranging between $300 to $600. The state claims that some customers incurred thousands of dollars in veterinary bills in order to treat their dogs while other dogs died within days or weeks of being adopted, with no money being refunded.
On Aug. 27, the judge put a halt on any future shipment of dogs to the shelter, despite objections from Mr. Sash.
Approximately 75 dogs remain at the shelter and are being cared for by Mr. Zambito, Mr. Sash said.