The owner and an employee of a New Jersey animal shelter have been charged with falsifying the medical records of more than a dozen dogs.
The owner of Home for Good Dog Rescue Inc. in Berkeley Heights, Union County, is charged with 15 counts of falsifying records to deceive prospective pet owners, as well as other charges, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo jointly announced Friday.
Prosecutors say Toni A. Turco, 55, of Somerset County tried to hide negative aspects of dogs' medical histories from adopters. The dogs included a variety of breeds, ranging from hounds to designer breeds such as shih tzus, and were given names such as “Summer,” “Winston,” and “Dixie” before going to unsuspecting adoptive families.
“When properly managed, animal shelters across Union County and beyond perform a deeply valued public service by giving previously abandoned or neglected pets a second chance in life,” prosecutor Ruotolo said.
“But what those in charge of this shelter did amounted to nothing short of a deliberate and flagrant violation of the public’s trust, with conduct that was not only unethical, but criminal.”
Richard A. Errico, 65, an employee of the shelter, also faces one count of false advertising to deceive prospective pet owners.
Turco faces 15 counts of fourth-degree falsifying records for the purpose of deceiving prospective pet owners, two counts of fourth-degree knowingly selling and/or exposing to human contact a pet with a contagious or infectious disease and a single count of third-degree coercion by threatening to harm an employee’s reputation or livelihood.
Third-degree criminal charges are commonly punishable by three to five years in state prison, while fourth-degree crimes can result in penalties ranging from probation to 18 months in prison.