SCARBOROUGH – A Scarborough pet store remains under a state-ordered quarantine following the death of a Siberian husky puppy sold there that tested positive for the highly contagious parvovirus.
Although Little Paws Pet Store on Payne Road remains open, it can bring in no new dogs and none of its stock can leave the shop except to see a veterinarian.
Jay Finegan, spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said Tuesday that the quarantine, ordered Feb. 1, will remain in place until all 23 dogs now at Little Paws test negative for parvovirus, as well as giardia, an intestinal parasite the husky also had.
“The Animal Welfare Program responds to several complaints each year that involve a disease outbreak at a licensed facility or other populations of young dogs or cats,” said state program director Liam Hughes.
The incident has renewed protests by Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, which has regularly picketed the store since June, when the store was purchased by Jamie Nonnoi and Barbara Cross. On Sunday, protestors were on site again, waving signs about the husky, named Shelby, as well as a dachshund that also recently died days after purchase from Little Paws.
“These stores are getting away with so much and no one will do anything,” said Lynne Fracassi, who founded Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills two year ago with the express goal of ending all sales of dogs and kittens in pet stores across Maine.
Carol Reynolds, Farcassi’s main partner in her advocacy group and owner of Bridgton-based pet grooming business Wizard of Paws, said last week that Cross is using a “really bad breeder” from Missouri, with a history of U.S. Department of Agriculture violations.
Cross said Tuesday that the breeder from whom she purchased the husky pup is actually from Kansas. She admits to not screening the breeder as carefully as she might have because it came with a recommendation from one of her regular suppliers. However, while she has since blacklisted the Kansas kennel, and accepts responsibility for giardia getting into her store, Cross says she remains unconvinced that the husky contracted parvovirus from her shop, or that it came to her infected with the disease.
That’s because parvovirus takes three to 14 days to incubate before an animal has symptoms. The husky was under the state mandated five-day quarantine from the time it entered Maine until it could leave her shop, says Cross. Meanwhile, the owner, Julie Thomas of Madison, N.H., admits she had the dog for six days before it showed symptoms.
Since the husky died Feb. 1, none of Cross’ 23 dogs have become sick. She also claims that 15 people who bought dogs from her in the two weeks before the Jan. 20 sale of the husky have been contacted, and none reported health issues related to parvovirus.
“That leads to me to believe that the parvovirus have been caught someplace else,” said Cross.
Thomas, the dog’s owner, is skeptical.
“We never went anywhere where she would have caught anything,” said Thomas.
Still, Cross is acknowledging another health issue in her store.
“We do have a couple people who have had a problem with giardia, though” said Cross. “I take responsibility for that. In hindsight, I let too many people socialize our puppies with adult dogs.”
Cross said she has spent the quarantine period sealing all wood surfaces in the store, making plans to rip up rugs and other germ-clutching surfaces, as well as overhauling how puppies are handled when cleaning their kennels and being allowed out to play.
“I’m going to make it so I can sanitize each and every square inch of my store every day so this never happens again,” she said.
Still, that’s little consolation for Thomas, who lost a 12-year-old husky shortly before buying Shelby.
“We were just hanging out in Scarborough,” she said on Tuesday. “We weren’t planning on buying a puppy. We actually were on our way into Bull Moose but we went into the pet store and I just fell in love in with it right away.
“For six days we did everything together,” said Thomas. “It was just the two if us all the time and then on the sixth day she got real lethargic and then came the vomiting and diarrhea. We spent that night on floor together and then the next day I took her to the vet in Fryeburg.”
Cross said she’s willing to refund Thomas’ $1,299 purchase price as soon as she gets all of the animal’s original documentation returned to her,
Meanwhile, she vehemently denies the allegation made by Reynolds and Farcassi, both in interviews and on social media sites.
“She believes parvovirus doesn’t exist, that it’s a veterinary conspiracy,” said Reynolds, of Cross.
“Oh, my God, I can’t believe that craziness. That is completely untrue,” said Cross. “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Not only does she believe in parvovirus, said Cross, she has vowed in the future not to let any puppy leave her premises for 10 days after it’s entered the state, double the state-imposed quarantine time.
Cross says she is uncertain what killed the dachshund two days after it was sold on Jan. 17, the day before the husky entered her store. However, she agrees that as it was vomiting on the day it was sold, it never should have been allowed to leave the store.
“I’m very sorry that this unfortunate circumstance happened,” she said. “It’s really hard. I’ve never been through anything like this before. The protestors have been absolutely horrendous. I don’t need their lies and harassment it’s already a bad and unfortunate situation as it is.”
Thomas, however, is not moved by Cross’ claims.
“It’s been hard, but we’re getting through it,” said Thomas, who claims she’s got the runaround on a refund and still does not have her money back. “It’s good the news is getting out there, I would just like to see here stop selling sick dogs.”