SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The owner-operator of three San Diego-area pet shops shuttered by authorities this spring pleaded guilty Friday to two misdemeanor charges and was placed on five years probation, the prosecutor said.
Johnson Tan Le of El Cajon had faced more than two dozen animal abuse counts and health violations stemming from unhealthy conditions he allowed to exist at the businesses.
Following an investigation by the San Diego Humane Society, authorities on March 27 raided his home, where he bred dogs, and Nadine's Puppies, 1021 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside; Pet Place, 6512 El Cajon Blvd., Rolando; and Puppy Star, 6167 Balboa Ave., Clairemont. All three shops were permanently closed.
Kelli Herwehe of the Humane Society said investigators seized 117 animals, including 57 puppies, rabbits, birds, a 35-pound turtle and a 7-foot python. Many were diseased and a dove was euthanized.
Deputy District Attorney Kristie Nikoletich said Le pleaded guilty to animal abuse and having an animal enclosure unable to be sanitized. He was also ordered to 80 hours of community service, and is prohibited from directly or indirectly selling or possessing animals during his probationary period, the prosecutor said.
A grassroots group calling itself the San Diego Animal Defense Team periodically protested conditions at Le's stores and filed complaints with the county, labeling the shops "puppy mills." The organization sent reporters a statement that said it was "extremely disappointed" that prosecutors couldn't proceed with felony charges but was gratified that the three stores were shut down.