South Jersey pet store shuttered for multiple health violations

A South Jersey pet store, which buys its dogs from some of Pennsylvania's worst puppy mills, has been shut down for 30 days for health code violations.

The Gloucester County Department of Health closed the Puppy Stop in Washington Township following an investigation last year that revealed poor sanitary conditions, failure to keep proper medical records and the use of expired medications, according to the South Jersey Times.

The action came after the Washington Township council passed a resolution to suspend The Puppy Stop’s license for 30 days, beginning on April 1, and charge a $500 fine.

The charging documents issued to the store owner, Mark Harnish, alleged problems with sanitary operations, as well as problems with “patterns and practices,"

The synopsis said inspectors could not “effectively correlate” the animals’ medical histories because of issues with intake records.

The owner was ordered implement a “record keeping system that will ensure that inspections can be done such that each animal’s medical history can be easily tracked and verified,” as well as “pay strict attention to labeling and expiration of medication.”

The county’s Department of Consumer Protection has received five complaints about The Puppy Stop since 2010, the newspaper reported. Nonprofit groups that track pet store complaints, such as Pet Shop Puppies and New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse, also have received complaints from consumers reporting that puppies sold by Harnish suffered from kennel cough, parasites and genetic defects.

Harnish bought puppies from commercial breeders in Lancaster County whose licenses have been now revoked or who continue to be chronic violators of the state dog law, among them Silver Hill Kennel, whose operators John and Nancy Zimmerman have twice had their license revoked and Turkey Hill Kennel, which has been cited repeatedly by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for having filthy conditions, including in one case where the ammonia smell so strong inspectors had to wear masks. 

The store's website said it would be closed for "renovations," including upgrades to the floors, pens, walls and more. On its Facebook page it announced discounted puppies, including some registered by the American Kennel Club, to clear its cages for the "spruce up."