Despite repeated complaints of animal abuse from neighbors, the owners of the Fresh Pond Pet Shop in Maspeth have not been arrested nor has the store been officially shut down.
According to Det. Thomas Bell, the 104th Precinct issued three summonses to the owners, Efron Martinez and Kimberly Ruiz on March 8, for failing to display a business certificate, failing to produce a valid permit and failing to provide proof that they completed a course.
On March 12, the police responded to an abuse complaint at the shop, but Bell said that in the few minutes he was there he did not observe any abuse.
Nearby residents described tanks so filthy they could not see fish swimming in them, dogs and cats deprived of food and water and a husky trapped in a cage too small for it to stand up.
The police say all the animals were removed from the store at some point between March 12 and Monday. Bell does not know when specifically, nor where the animals were taken.
The majority of the animals were removed, but neighbors say that some remained in the store, without food, water and care for five days.
Sally Keller, who lives across the street from the store, said one of her neighbors saw a woman removing a cat from the premises in a carrier around 12:30 p.m. on Monday, after the police reported all the animals were gone.
The next morning, Keller tried to confront the person, but claims the woman physically pushed her out of the way. She peered into the store and saw dead fish floating in their tanks. Keller believes the fish were disposed of before the police arrived.
Angela Connell said the last of the animals were removed in the middle of Monday night, so none were left when the police returned on Tuesday.
“If this were handled properly, animals could’ve been saved by the ASPCA,” Connell said. “The 104th Precinct messed everything up.”
Connell fears that the owners will bring the animals back in the middle of the night at some point in the future and resume operations.
“People are very upset,” she said. “Who knows what they did with that husky? It’s probably in a crate rotting to death.”
Many neighbors want to know where the animals are now.
Connell said that one man purchased a great Dane from the store because the owners were keeping it in a shoebox-sized cage. The dog was unable to stand and could not walk for several months.
“These people prey on your emotions,” Connell said. “The public has no choice but to buy and rescue these animals. The more stories I hear, the more unfathomable it is that this could continue.”
“This is a bad time for anything like this to happen,” an animal activist who asked to remain anonymous said, explaining that the Police Department recently partnered with the ASPCA and now respond to animal abuse complaints.
“It’s a shame,” Keller said. “The animals who can’t talk for themselves pay the price.”