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Animal Cruelty Suspects Appear in Brick Court

Pet store owner could ask for change of venue

The owner and manager of the former Puppies Galore pet store were in Brick municipal court Thursday evening.

Maria De Santis, the store's owner, is facing 38 counts of animal cruelty related to her ownership of the business, which was shut down by authorities in January.

The store's manager, Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, is facing four counts of animal cruelty.

Municipal Court Judge Robert M. Lepore granted De Santis' attorney's request for a 45 day period of discovery, during which she and her attorney can comb through the documents that make up the state's case against her.

De Santis' attorney said after the discovery period, the defense may request a change in venue due to statements that have been made by people associated with the township.

It was the first time in court for De Santis, a 57-year-old Old Bridge resident. She said virtually nothing to the judge, instead allowing her attorney to answer questions posed by Lepore.

De Santis would not comment to a reporter outside the court room.

It was the second appearance in court for Sladkin, who told the judge he has not yet retained an attorney because he has been suffering from heart health issues.

"I've been sick," he said. "I'm on a heart monitor now."

Lepore gave Sladkin two more weeks to hire an attorney, but warned him against putting it off any longer.

"The wheels of justice don't stop because someone is sick," Lepore said.

Charges were filed against the pair in February, a few days after the puppies were removed from the Hooper Avenue store. Officials have said 26 of the dogs were sick at the time. The bulk of the cruelty charges stem from the defendants' alleged failure to provide necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the puppies. The remaining criminal charges were filed for failure to provide proper shelter and water.

The township council revoked the store's business license last month.

Both De Santis and Sladkin face up to six months in jail, plus fines.

Thomas Anthony March 16, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Apparently the arrogant and remorseless Mr. Sladkin knows the ropes or he would have had submitted supportive documentation to the Court. It's almost as if he's been down this road before and expects no punishment for his charges against the innocent and powerless puppies. Let's face it, he's been getting away with it for decades. Two significant blows to the Citizens of Brick Township this week - first the "Change of Heart" from several Council members previously committed to support the Mayor's Ban on Puppy Sales and now the questionable "Heart Change" to Mr. Sladkin's person. How many more animals will suffer the same fate at his hands?
Mike March 17, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I was at the hearing and happened to be in the hallway when Sladkin and his girlfriend were out there. I heard her say to him, "I told you it would work." Now, I suppose she could have been referring to something else, but I say this was very obviously planned. He knew he was going to go there and try to delay the process. Sickening.
David March 17, 2012 at 09:10 PM
It's difficult to accept that we live in a society where justice and protection of the innocent is near nonexistent. The abusers do know the ropes and continue on with the abuse. Isn't Mr. Sladkin the same guy who owned the store in Point Pleasant twenty years ago? It is my contention that a civil society will not tolerate the inhumane treatment of animals.
frances March 17, 2012 at 09:32 PM
In my opinion, I suspect that the only thing making Sladkin sick is his temporary loss of profit. Does anyone know the name of the Attorney representing DeSantis?
JDMphiser March 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM
He owned the one in Pt pleasant that was shut down TWICE! And one in Wall/Seagirt which too got shut down. Its sad that him and desantis were aloud to go on this long without something being done earlier.

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