The state attorney general’s office is investigating Shake A Paw stores in Lynbrook and Hicksville after receiving nearly 30 complaints from customers across Long Island who said they were sold sick puppies.
“We’re investigating Shake A Paw,” said Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for the attorney general’s office. “We encourage impacted New Yorkers to file complaints with our office.”
The state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets also received four complaints against the store in 2017, and all were settled. “All four complaints were reviewed by the department and were either resolved or closed,” said Lisa Koumjian, the department’s public information officer. “During the department’s most recent inspection of Shake A Paw, the company was found to be in compliance with the state’s pet dealer regulations.”
Oceanside resident Heidi Cohen said, however, that she purchased a male French mastiff named Izzy as a gift for her boyfriend, Michael Thompson, on Jan. 11, and the puppy immediately developed health problems. Cohen said she purchased the dog at the Lynbrook location, at 1 Atlantic Ave., and just hours later it was coughing uncontrollably. She added that when she called Shake A Paw, employees there would not put the owner on the phone.
Cohen added that her children, Hunter, 15, Sawyer, 11, and Ryker, 9, were devastated to see the dog in such poor condition. “The dog was lethargic,” Cohen said of Izzy. “He wouldn’t move. We couldn’t play with him.”
Calls requesting comment from Shake A Paw had not been returned at press time.
Thompson said that Cohen purchased the dog for $3,041, and that Izzy was “coughing violently.” Shake A Paw advised the family to take him to Sunrise Animal Hospital in Rockville Centre. He was diagnosed with kennel cough, which is when a dog hacks to the point that it sounds like it is choking, and had pneumonia in both lungs, Thompson said.
He added that he was upset that the store would not tell him the owner’s name. “We called the pet store and the owner refused to talk to us,” he said. “They wouldn’t even give me the owner’s name. This is supposed to be a reputable business, and they won’t tell me his name.”
The family took the dog to the veterinarian about six times over four weeks, Thompson said, adding that Izzy had to be hooked up to breathing machines at home. He said Shake A Paw covered the veterinary expenses, but would not have paid any bills above the amount Cohen paid for the dog.
Thompson said that Izzy eventually got better, but the ordeal was hard for her boys to deal with. “The three kids watched this dog lay there for four weeks,” he said. “They were devastated. There was one point where I said the dog’s not going to make it to the morning. That’s how bad it was. And the kids were hysterical.”
Cohen said that Shake A Paw employees also scolded her over the phone because they thought she had posted fliers outside the store condemning them for selling sick dogs. She said they threatened to report her to the police, but she said she didn’t post the fliers. She noted that numerous people have complained about the store on social media, and that any of them might have done it.
Responding to a Herald inquiry on Facebook, Jessica Tagliarino said that a few of her relatives had had problems with puppies purchased at Shake A Paw. “I know three dogs purchased there by my family members,” she said. “All needed surgeries, all were different breeds and had different reasons. One died too young, at 2 years old.”
Another woman, who did not identify herself, said she bought an English bulldog in 2006 and gave it to her cousin, but the dog had a number of health issues and died. Lynbrook resident Dawn Marie Acevedo said that she knows a number of people who have purchased puppies from Shake A Paw that have been diagnosed with serious health issues. “I can’t even walk in there because I know I would be heartbroken,” she said.
Oceanside resident Kelly Mayberry said that her friends purchased two Wheaten terriers from the store, and both required 10 days of treatment for kennel cough. One eventually developed other significant health problems, she added. Reached by phone, Mayberry said she once went into the Lynbrook store and noticed a dog walking with a limp. She recalled that when she spoke to an employee there, who did not identify himself, he told her the dog was deemed healthy and could be purchased for $2,300.
Mayberry said she was told that she could not take the dog to be checked by her veterinarian, and that Shake A Paw employees said they would take it to the Sunrise Animal Hospital without her.
“He got quite belittling about how I couldn’t know anything because I’m not a vet,” she said. “He said that he knows what he’s talking about. I said I just wanted to go about things the right way and make sure what I’m purchasing is healthy.” At that point, she said, she was asked to leave.
Calls to the Sunrise Animal Hospital requesting comment had not been returned at press time.
Not all the responses to the Facebook inquiry about Shake A Paw were negative. Shannon Mancini Straub recommended rescuing dogs over purchasing them from pet stores, but said there were circumstances that caused her to buy a particular breed from Shake A Paw.
“I have never had any health issues,” she said, “and I know a lot of people who have gotten puppies there and haven’t had issues.”