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May 17, 2013

Pet store owner faces felony cruelty charge

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN – The owner of a longtime neighborhood pet shop in Warren is facing a felony animal cruelty charge after police removed dozens of animals kept in what was described as “deplorable” conditions.

Dennis Jones, 57, of Pontiac, was arraigned before 37th District Court Judge   Jennifer Faunce May 16 on one count of animal cruelty, a two-year felony.

Jones was taken into custody by Warren police May 15 after a city zoning inspector contacted animal control officers about Greenwood Pets & Plants, on Nine Mile east of Schoenherr.

Detective Sgt. Stephen Mills said city inspectors were originally sent to the shop to enforce a judgment of property on a civil matter through the 37th District Court, but that police were alerted when the conditions inside the store were observed.

Officials said utility service, including both electricity and water, were apparently shut off for lack of payment.

City officials said water service was cut because the business had an outstanding bill totaling more than $9,000.

Warren animal control officer Lisa Taylor said at least 60 animals were removed from the store and taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment. Animals taken from Greenwood Pets & Plants included iguanas, a six-foot albino python, rabbits and chickens, dogs, cats, kittens and puppies, and many birds.

A turtle was among the animals that didn’t survive, despite being removed from the store where Taylor said there were incidents of “severe overcrowding” and dirty conditions.

Some animals were also reportedly observed without food or water, and the store was darkened without power. 

Warren Police Sgt. Larry Garner thanked DTE Energy Co. May 17 for restoring power while officers worked to remove the animals. Efforts remained ongoing to find homes for saltwater and freshwater fish that would have likely perished without electricity to power filtration systems.

Jones told Faunce at his arraignment he was scheduled for trial in Macomb County Circuit Court this month in another case where he faces the same charge.

Warren police said the previous animal cruelty charge was filed last summer after Jones allegedly neglected to seek treatment for a goat with a medical condition.

Jones requested court-appointed legal counsel and Faunce cautioned him about making statements during the hearing. 

But speaking about both the new and existing animal cruelty charges, Jones said, “I’ve attended all the hearings and so forth and look forward to defending both our company for 60 years and no such charge as this.”

Several Warren residents in attendance at the arraignment said they’d support Jones.

Jamie Gilson, 37, said she’s lived near the store for two years and that Jones was a kind-hearted shop owner who cares about his animals but was maybe “overwhelmed” by the financial burden of maintaining the store.

Greenwood Pets & Plants was described as a family business that’s operated for at least 35 years.

“It may be somewhat poor conditions but everybody’s got to understand he’s by his self. He’s trying to run the place by his self,” Gilson said. “He don’t want to hire people if he can’t pay them.”

Gilson said supporters would attempt to organize a fund to help defray Jones’ financial burdens and save the store.

“He’s going to try to keep it going. That’s a business his dad built from the ground up,” Gilson said.

Police said Jones was found hiding in a basement area of the store when they arrived to remove the animals May 15. But Jones and his supporters told the court that wasn’t the case.

The situation prompted Warren Mayor Jim Fouts to propose a new ordinance banning the sale of live animals at any new stores in the city.

Fouts said the state no longer inspects pet stores but that licensing and inspection could be conducted locally by the city.

Jones is next scheduled to appear in the 37th District Court for a preliminary examination on the newest animal cruelty charge at 8:45 a.m. May 30.

He was reportedly freed May 16 after supporters posted a $10,000 bond but Faunce ordered him to refrain from possessing animals pending resolution of the case.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.