SAFETY HARBOR — The owner of a puppy store was arrested Sunday on charges of animal cruelty after customers called authorities when they noticed several animals were living in filthy conditions.
Bernard E. Nowakowski, 58, owner of the PuppyLuv pet store at 2741 McMullen Booth Road, was charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty.
The events leading to Nowakowski's arrest began when would-be customers arrived at the store and noticed the door was open, but no one was tending the sales floor.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigators say the customers then inspected some of the animals and were disturbed by their conditions. They contacted the Sheriff's Office.
When deputies arrived at the store, they confirmed the conditions: 26 dogs in pens with no food or water, and some animals covered in their own filth.
"Deputies say at least one of the dogs — a small breed — was covered in urine. Another — a pit bull — was being kept in an undersized pen," according to a Sheriff's Office statement. Another appeared to be sick.
Deputies contacted Nowakowski, who lives in New Port Richey, and asked him to come to the pet store. He arrived and was arrested. Instead of him going to jail, an ambulance took Nowakowski to Mease Countryside Hospital to treat a non-life-threatening condition after he complained he was ill.
This was not the first time Nowakowski's pet store has attracted attention from law enforcement. In July, deputies were called to the business after building management contacted the Suncoast Animal League about the odor coming from the store. While deputies reported poor animal conditions, Pinellas County Animal Services disagreed and no action was taken.