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RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
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DEM ARRESTS FALL RIVER MAN FOR ILLEGALLY IMPORTING DOGS INTO RHODE ISLANDPROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Division of Law Enforcement today announced the arrest of Justin J. Wagner, age 30, of Fall River, Massachusetts. Wagner - arrested on Wednesday, February 3 - is charged with importing dogs into the state without valid importation certificates or certificates of veterinarian inspection; he is also charged with operating a pet shop without a license. Wagner is scheduled to be arraigned in Third Division District Court on Monday, February 15.
"Protecting consumers and ensuring the health and safety of animals in Rhode Island are responsibilities we take very seriously," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "As in this case, our goal is always to respond swiftly when we are notified of an illegal operation, remove the animals, and bring the people responsible for that operation to justice. Also critical is educating the public about the law, illegal operators, and the risks associated with acquiring an animal from an unlicensed dealer so we can keep consumers, their families, and other pets safe."
DEM was first notified of Wagner's illegal business through the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) who received a tip that puppies were posted for sale on Facebook on the Loyal Labs page, under "RI Online Yard Sale". The State Veterinarian's Office confirmed Loyal Labs was not licensed in Rhode Island and that their dogs were believed to be from Pennsylvania - a state known for puppy mill operations.
DEM orchestrated a purchase of one of the puppies, which led to the arrest of Wagner. At the time of his arrest, Wagner was in possession of seven, nine-week-old Labrador Retriever puppies; all were seized and turned over to RISPCA for care. The animals were found to be dehydrated and infested with both tape and roundworm; roundworm poses a health risk to both animals and people. Test results are pending for one puppy that showed signs of canine distemper - a significant animal health issue.
Loyal Labs sold several other puppies prior to February 3, 2016 - which may have been exposed to the seized puppies. If you purchased one of these puppies, please contact your veterinarian to have your pet examined immediately.
Wagner is currently on probation for animal cruelty charges in Barnstable, Massachusetts and is associated with Beauty in the Beast K9 Services in Fall River, Massachusetts. Beauty in the Beast was issued a Cease and Desist Order on July 31, 2015 by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for operating without a license.
The public is reminded to verify animal brokers are properly licensed and have complete health records for all animals before adopting, rescuing, or purchasing an animal in their care; this is important to ensure the animal is free of contagious or deadly disease that may pose a risk to people and/or other pets.
For more safety tips and animal health information, visit us online. For information on DEM divisions and programs, visit www.dem.ri.gov or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM).