One of the two operators of the Brick Township pet shop made an appearance in municipal court Thursday night.
Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, a 71-year-old Farmingdale resident who managed the Puppies Galore pet store on Hooper Avenue, appeared before Judge Robert Lepore for an arraignment hearing.
Sladkin is facing four counts of cruelty to animals filed by investigators with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The owner of the store, Old Bridge resident Maria De Santis, 57, is facing 38 counts of animal cruelty.
Dressed in a black jacket, khaki pants and a red shirt, Sladkin tilted his head to the side and quietly listened to Lepore read the potential penalties for each charge – up to six months in the county jail and a fine of $1,000, plus various court fees. He could also face between one and three years of probation.
After the charges were read, Sladkin briskly walked out of the court room, then refused to comment on the case to a reporter, saying, "no comment."
De Santis was also scheduled to appear in court Thursday, but her appearance was adjourned after she had retained an attorney, court staff told Brick Patch.
Sladkin told a court officer he was planning on hiring an attorney as he walked out of the .
The cruelty charges against Sladkin and De Santis arose after authorities removed 39 puppies from the store they operated. Of the 39, veterinarians identified 26 as being ill, including four who were severely ill and were taken to a veterinary trauma center.
Officials with the SPCA said earlier this week that the charges were filed for failure to provide necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the puppies.
Sladkin's legal troubles date back decades. According to a 1995 article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sladkin and his wife were ordered to pay $17,500 in fines stemming from his operation of a pet store on Arnold Avenue in Point Pleasant Beach. That store, Pet Depot, is now closed.
A hearing on the status on the Brick store is set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., township officials confirmed this week.
The puppies that were removed from the store are being held at animal shelters while the case is being resolved.