Pet Company facing license suspension

Pet Company facing license suspension

June 25th, 2010 by Todd South in News

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.

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.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

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