Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pet Company Tries to Get Seized Animals Back

June 24, 2010 2:17 PM
John Madewell
Ten people are scheduled to testify in the Pet Company hearing in Judge Sherry Paty's court.

This is a direct response to the McKamey Animal Center removing its animals on June 15th.

The hearing started around 10:30 Thursday morning and is to determine what happens to the animals.

However due to the number of witnesses and time of testimony, Judge Paty limited testimony to three people. The hearing will resume next Monday morning at 11:30.

Executive Vice President of United Pet Supply Company, Incorporated, Chris Brooks flew down from New Jersey for this hearing.

An attorney for McKamey says on the day of removal, the temperature was 85 degrees or hotter in the isolation room.

Brooks acknowledged one of the two AC compressor's at the store wasn't working. He added he checked the temperature after he arrived a day after the animals were removed. Brooks says a thermometer read 79 degrees. On the 17th of June, Brooks said the air conditioning unit was repaired.

McKamey attorney Mark Litchford said in opening arguments that the AC not working for two weeks was one of five conditions meeting removal requirements.

Additional details in a live report on NewsChannel 9 at 5:00 and 6:00.

Chattanooga: Inspector suggests Pet Company's license be suspended by Todd Smith

A Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspector has suggested that the license for The Pet Company store in Hamilton Place be suspended.

Inspector Joe Burns re-visited the store a week after more than 30 animals were removed due to unsafe conditions.

The store received 43 citations that contained 90 violations during a June 15 inspection in which the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center confiscated dogs and an assortment of rabbits and hamsters.

A hearing is taking place today in Chattanooga City Court to examine the violations and determine whether the animals should be returned to the store or stay with McKamey.

For further updates, return to throughout the day.

UPDATE: Pet Company VP takes stand
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – An executive for the pet store raided by state and local officials over animal abuse allegation has taken the stand in his company's defense.

Chris Brooks, vice president for United Pet Supply Company, tells a Hamilton County judge that the air conditioning at The Pet Company in Hamilton Place Mall was not broken, but concedes that a compressor was down when the was raided on June 15th.

McKamey Animal Shelter alleges that the air conditioning had not worked in the store for more than two weeks.

Attorneys for McKamey Animal Shelter alleged that the animals at The Pet Company store were stored in hot conditions, the animals' fur was matted with feces and they had not been taken out to exercise.

Agents from the state agriculture department and McKamey Animal Shelter raided The Pet Company in Hamilton Place on June 15th and seized all of the animals in the store.

An emergency injunction attempt by The Pet Company last Tuesday failed and McKamey was able to keep the seized animals until today's hearing.

Eyewitness News has a crew in the courtroom and will have the latest as it becomes available on

Pet Company facing license suspension

By: Todd South
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.

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.

Hamilton Place Pet Store Not Subject To Chattanooga Animal Care Laws, Attorney Pippinger Tells Judge
by Judy Frank
posted June 24, 2010

Attorneys for a Hamilton Place Mall pet store did not bother to contest testimony that animals in the establishment were kept in cages stacked in piles, or that many of the containers designed to hold feces and urine in the cages were cracked and broken, enabling the waste from one cage to leak onto the animals in the cages below.

Likewise, they did not try to disprove allegations that The Pet Company also violated numerous other city regulations, including mandates that animals be supplied with food and water, kept in sanitary conditions and receive veterinary care when they are ill.

Rather, attorney Andy Pippinger argued on behalf of the store and its parent company, United Pet Supply Inc. of New Windsor, N.Y., it doesn’t matter how many Chattanooga regulations the store violates because those regulations do not apply to it.

It is the National Code of Animal Regulations that United Pet and its retail outlets must follow, Mr. Pippinger told City Judge Sherry Paty.

The attorney also gave short shrift to the recommendation of an animal health technician for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture – who frankly admitted that he is not familiar with the state codes he was hired to enforce – that the state revoke The Pet Company’s permit.

Arguing that state and local inspectors had proven no violations of the federal code, Mr. Pippinger demanded that the judge “summarily dismiss” the charges against his client and order the return of more than 30 animals seized by McKamey Animal Center during a June 15 raid.

“I’m going to deny the motion to dismiss,” Judge Paty said calmly.

Testimony in the lengthy hearing, which will resume Monday morning, indicated that McKamey has received numerous complaints regarding alleged abuse of animals at the pet store, and has repeatedly contacted the store’s manager about the necessity of providing better care.

None of the recommended changes was made, according to McKamey records.

The day concluded with testimony from United Pet Supply Corp. executive vice president Christopher Brooks, who said he regularly visits the firm’s 22 retail outlets in order to ensure they are following company policies.

He said he was informed June 15 that McKamey officials were at the Chattanooga store seizing animals, and began to make arrangements to travel here from his home in New Jersey.

When he arrived the following morning, he said, he discovered that the air conditioning unit in the store was not broken, as inspectors had claimed. One of the unit’s two compressors was out of order, he said, but has since been repaired.

He said United Pet Supply employees are expected to “self-train” in animal husbandry and care by reading a series of three manuals prepared by the company, and then taking the exams at the end of each manual.

There are ten questions at the end of both the first and second manuals, he said, and 15 at the end of the third.

Animal health technician Joe Burns of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, who said he has held his current job for four years and worked in animal husbandry for more than 35, testified that he accompanied McKamey employees to the store on June 15, when animals there were seized.

Although it was only 7 a.m. when they arrived at the facility, Mr. Burns said, “The thing that hit me immediately when we walked in was it was extremely hot in there.”

He said store employees explained that one of the compressors in the air conditioning unit had been out of operation for some time.

During his subsequent inspection, Mr. Burns said, he discovered a variety of violations including water bowls that were dirty and/or empty, animals with feces matted in their fur and numerous other unsanitary conditions.

Under cross examination, however, Attorney Pippinger made mincemeat of most of the testimony given by the Department of Agriculture employee, who had admitted casually on direct examination that he is not familiar with the state codes he was hired to enforce.

“What’s this mean?” Mr. Pippinger asked at one point, pointing to an abbreviation on the inspection sheet officer Burns said he fills out each time he inspects a facility.

“I don’t know,” the agriculture employee replied. “I’ve never used it.”

Mr. Burns remained unshaken, however, about the numerous violations he observed on June 15 and again during a follow-up visit to the store on June 22.

When he returned to his office on June 22, he said, he contacted the state department of agriculture office to make his report.

“I suggested that they start proceedings to suspend (The Pet Company’s) permit,” he said.