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Embattled Pet Shop Owner Closes Emerson Store, Drops Lawsuit

Vincent LoSacco, left, owner of Just Pups, and his attorney, Anthony Arturi. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Emerson residents and others concerned about animal rights packed the Emerson council chambers. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Emerson Councilman Brian Downing, center, confronting Just Pups Owner Vincent LoSacco. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Protest signs outside the council chambers. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Carol Woznicki of Emerson leaving the podium after urging the council not to renew the Just Pups license. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

EMERSON, N.J. — The embattled owner of a string of pet shops dropped his lawsuit against the borough of Emerson and kept his store there closed for good on Wednesday after officials rejected his bid for a new license.

Vncent LoSacco "agreed to close and terminate his lawsuit" against the borough, Mayor Lou Lamatina told Daily Voice.

The remaining dogs at the Kinderkamack Road shop will go to LoSacco's East Hanover store or a local rescue, he said Wednesday afternoon.

Applause filled the chamber barely 12 hours earlier as Emerson council members unanimously agreed not to renew the license for LoSacco, who faces hundreds of charges of animal cruelty in Bergen County and elsewhere in New Jersey.

LoSacco's Emerson Just Pups shop had been operating without a license since it expired on June 30.

A state judge in Hackensack ruled Friday that the shop could remain open with third-party oversight until the license matter was resolved.

Borough officials took care of that Tuesday night.

During a nearly six-hour hearing that ended just before 1 a.m., more than a dozen citizens aired their concerns. Several shared stories of miserably sick dogs they’d bought at one or another Just Pups store -- some of whom lacked the ability to eat, walk or adequately pass waste.

“The entire state of New Jersey is watching this decision,” Barbara Desena, co-organizer of Friends of Animals-NJ, told the council. “Please don’t make a bad name for the town of Emerson.”

Council members also listened intently to the testimony of Carol Tyler, a senior officer with Tyco Animal Control, and Darlene Mandeville, health officer for the NorthWest Bergen Regional Health Commission.

Both spoke of repeated health concerns at Just Pups that they said actually had improved of late.

Tyler said that she or a staff member visited the closed location in Paramus, as well as the Emerson store, several times. They found various problems, she said, including but not limited to failing to vaccinate, medicating without a veterinarian’s oversight and leaving dogs in sunlight with shades that weren't drawn.

“I wasn’t as concerned with overheating as I was with the effect of sunlight on their eyes,” Tyler said.

Still to be heard in Emerson Municipal Court this Thursday are a half-dozen code violations.

A total of 134 charges of animal cruelty filed by the Bergen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) are still pending against LoSacco and his brother, Leonard, for an incident at the defunct Paramus shop.

LoSacco surrendered his license there after Paramus police found 67 dogs crated overnight in a van outside.

He already was facing 267 animal cruelty charges filed against him in March by the New Jersey SPCA after three dead dogs were recovered from a freezer of his East Brunswick store.

LoSacco cleared out the Paramus location and moved the remaining dogs there to Emerson -- where he offered them for sale at half price -- and into the hands of a local animal rescue organization.

Mandeville, who has inspected the Emerson shop since January, said she issued six summonses for heath code violations on June 9 as part of a conditionally satisfactory inspection report.

LoSacco and his attorney, Anthony Arturi, argued that the borough has no ordinance regulating pet shops. They insisted that borough officials take only the record of the Emerson store -- and not the others -- into account when deciding whether to renew his license.

They also noted that Mandeville's inspection found operations conditionally satisfactory at the Kinderkamack Road shop.

“I’m innocent till proven guilty, and I have 6½ years operating a clean establishment,” said LoSacco, an Emerson native. “There’s no reason other than discrimination I don’t have a license.”

LoSacco said he was being harassed -- as evidenced in part by the fact that he received health-related visits hours before Tuesday's hearing.

Borough Attorney Wendy Rubenstein countered that the council was only trying its best to gather all the information it needs to make a sound decision on the license.

For instance, she said, LoSacco hadn't provided the governing body with a breeder list prior to the hearing. One is needed to confirm that he is not buying puppies from disreputable establishments.

Council Brian Downing also responded to LoSacco's harassment claims.

“For some reason, you seem to know every loophole,” he told LoSacco. “It’s a lot of work for you to not do the right thing.”

“There is no loophole with the health department,” LoSacco replied, “when you’re being looked at through a magnifying glass.”

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