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Safety Harbor pet store owner faces more animal cruelty charges in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — The owner of a Safety Harbor puppy store was charged with 12 more counts of animal cruelty Monday, a day after more than two dozen puppies were confiscated from his shop.

On Sunday, Bernard E. Nowakowski, 58, was charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty — one for each of the puppies found living in filthy living conditions at PuppyLuv pet store at 2741 McMullen-Booth Road in Safety Harbor, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

The extra counts were added after Tarpon Springs police found 12 hungry and thirsty puppies locked in five pens without food or water in a rented U.S. 19 storefront, police said.

Police said Nowakowski apparently rented the unit Friday in Olympic Plaza, 40176 U.S. 19 N, and moved the 12 puppies there.

According to the Sheriff's Office, which investigated the Safety Harbor incident, deputies asked Tarpon Springs police to check on the welfare of puppies being kept at the Olympic Plaza storefront.

A plaza maintenance employee unlocked the door for officers because there were no employees present tending to the animals. The puppies were given food and water, and the SPCA Tampa Bay arrived to take custody of them.

The 12 puppies of various breeds appeared in good health other than being hungry and thirsty, police said. Dog food was found inside the business.

"The bowls were completely dry and in one of the cages, there was no bowl at all," said SPCA Tampa Bay humane officer Jill Purl, who responded to both locations.

Nowakowski was arrested Sunday after customers at his Safety Harbor store called police when they noticed several animals living in filthy conditions. Would-be customers arrived at the store and noticed the door was open, but no one was tending the sales floor.

Purl called the conditions Sunday deplorable.

SPCA Tampa Bay has confiscated all of the animals, which include dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers, Shih Tzus, various mixed breeds and one juvenile pit bull.

Nowakowski refused to surrender the animals, which he was selling at PuppyLuv for prices ranging from $500 to $1,400, Purl said. The agency will try to get legal custody through the courts, a process that takes about 30 days, Purl said.

On Monday afternoon, the puppies were being examined by a veterinarian. If SPCA gets custody, the animals will be put up for adoption, Purl said.

Fast facts

Protect animals

To report suspected abuse or neglect of animals, call the SPCA Tampa Bay investigation department at (727) 586-3591, ext. 135.

Safety Harbor pet store owner faces more animal cruelty charges in Tarpon Springs 10/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 4:35pm]
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