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"A Very Sick Puppy": Local Owner of a New Puppy Who Died from Parvovirus Holds Woodbridge Pet Store Accountable

Toms River's Doreen Longo bought a new German Shepherd as a present for her daughter. Just days later, the puppy's life ended from parvovirus.

Update: Sasha, the German Shepherd puppy, died from intestinal parasites and parvovirus shortly after this story was written.

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When Doreen Longo of Toms River brought home an adorable German Shepherd puppy as a Christmas present for her daughter, Longo thought that the holidays would be filled with love and cheer.

Instead, less than 36 hours after she brought little Sasha home, Longo devoted the last ten days and more than $1,000 at her veterinarian's, trying to keep the terribly sick puppy from death's door.

"I feel so terrible. That poor puppy didn't ask for this," Longo said, close to tears. 

Longo purchased the puppy at , a pet store in the Avenel section of Woodbridge that specializes in purebred canines.

"The puppy started vomiting and had bloody diarrhea the second day after we brought him home," Longo said.

In panic, she called Fancy Pups owner Rocco Guarruto, who had sold her Sasha for $950.00 and told him she had taken the dog to the Point Pleasant Veterinary Hospital.

"They said the dog had roundworms. They did a stool sample and the puppy was also infected with Coccidia and Giardiasis", two other type of parasitic worms, Longo said.

That wasn't the worst of it. Little Sasha was also infected with parvovirus, a highly contagious disease that is frequently fatal to canines, especially puppies. When she bought the puppy, it had been in a cage with two other German Shepherds of the same age.

Two Puppies with Parvo

The veterinary assistant at the Point Pleasant hospital was shocked when she heard about Sasha, because it was the second German Shepherd puppy they had come in contact with who was infected with parvo.

The assistant confirmed that that puppy, too, had been purchased from Fancy Pups in Avenel. She could not say whether the puppy had died from the disease because of privacy laws.

Guarruto said that the puppy wasn't sick when he sold the dog to Longo. 

"We called the owners of the puppy's litter mates. They all seem to be fine," Guarruto said. "I'm not one to point fingers, but I don't know her environmental situation. I don't know if the puppy got it from being exposed to another dog [in Longo's home] who had it."

Guarruto said that the puppy had been vaccinated against parvo before it was sent home with Longo. "I do this myself. I'm a breeder myself," he said.

In addition to selling puppies, Guarruto said he boards dogs and grooms them, and he has his "own infirmary" in the puppy store where he himself takes care of sick animals.

The store was supposed to provide Longo with a form, signed by a veterinarian, that the dog was in good health. Longo said she never received such a form, a contention Guarruto disputes.

"Yeah, she got a form," he said, but he refused to say which veterinarian he uses to certify that the puppies his store sells are healthy and disease-free.

A Special Puppy

Sasha is a special puppy, Longo said. The family had owned Blitz, a purebred German Shepherd who had been part of the family for 13 years.

Blitz had passed away in July, right before Longo's 19-year-old daughter, Angela Trahan, who had joined the Army, was leaving home for boot camp in Alabama.

As a Christmas present, Longo had wanted to get a German Shepherd puppy to surprise her daughter, who was coming home for a vacation.

Angela fell in love the minute she set eyes on Sasha. "She adored that puppy," Longo said before breaking down in tears.

Instead of spending Christmas at home with the new puppy, Angela will be leaving for her Army assignment on January 3. The puppy has been mostly unconscious, still vomiting and oozing diarrhea, and hooked up to an IV for dehydration at Calling All Creatures, a Toms River veterinary center near Longo's home.

Longo herself has spent nights sitting up with the sick puppy at the veterinary clinic.

Other Complaints

This isn't the first time that complaints have been filed against Fancy Pups. A variety of agencies and organizations throughout the county and state have heard of problems residents have had with puppies purchased at the store.

The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs affirmed that there have been 10 complaints filed against the pet store from 2008 to now. In fact, the Middlesex County Division of Consumer Affairs in New Brunswick confirmed that they are suing Fancy Pups for defying the state's Consumer Fraud Act in selling sick animals.

That case is on the docket to be heard in Woodbridge Municipal Court on January 5.

Longo, who said she spoke to Phillip Bujalski, the chief health inspector at the Woodbridge Health Department, said Bujalski asserted there were "no complaints" against Fancy Pups.

The township's health department licenses and annually inspects pet stores. 

Bujalski's assistant referred questions to the mayor's office.

The NJ Dept. of Health has also received complaints about the Avenel pet store.

Daniel Emmer, a spokesman with the NJ Dept. of Health, said that they have also received complaints against the store.

"The state has received three complaints since 2007 for selling puppies deemed unfit for purchase.  One complaint was from 2007, while another complaint was received in 2009," Emmer said in a statement.  "These complaints were referred to both the local health office and the Division of Consumer Affairs within the Department of Law and Public Safety."

Matthew Stanton of the NJSPCA, which leads the charge in the state in cases of animal cruelty, said that they "have a history at that address", referring to Fancy Pups in Avenel.

"We have received a complaint. It's under investigation," Stanton said.

'A Very Good Reputation'

For his part, Guarruto scoffed at the complaints, saying they were so few in number as to be meaningless.

"I have five dogs myself. I'm an animal lover. My whole family are animal lovers," he said. "Check stores within a 26 mile radius and see who has the least complaints," referring to another Woodbridge pet store he said doesn't take care of their pets.

"We have been here almost 10 years. We have a very good reputation."

Guarruto at first denied he was being sued. "I have a lawyer, and he hasn't contacted me," he said, but then added: "My lawyer is resolving it with Consumer Affairs. I won't have to be in court. I wasn't served."

Guarruto said he had "no problem paying for legitimate veterinary bills," but that he wanted Longo to provide him with blood tests to prove the puppy actually has parvo.

"I'd like to see how the dog caught parvo. I've got no problem talking about the puppy. If it's a legitimate claim, I have no problem paying for the dog to go to the vet. Why won't the vet talk to me?" he said.

Things Don't Look Good

Sasha rallied a bit on Thursday, even going so far as to sit up. But Friday the puppy had a relapse, and things aren't looking good, Longo said.

"The vet gave Sasha a 50-50 chance. He was being optimistic," she said. "The dog's eyes were rolling in the back of his head, now they're just sunken.

"I'm expecting to hear the worst any minute."

When Longo heard that Guarruto had called her vet several times, and demanded to know why her vet wouldn't return his calls, she laughed sardonically.

"That's easy. My vet said that anyone who would sell a puppy in this condition is a monster. He doesn't want to talk to monsters," she said.

Come Thursday, Longo said she will be at Woodbridge Municipal Court to bear witness to Guarruto, if only through his lawyer. She herself has retained an attorney.

"No one should ever, ever have to go through this," Longo said. "My dog should be running around and enjoying her new life, not sick in a cage with an IV stuck in her."

Carol January 01, 2012 at 06:33 AM
When will people realize they need to stop buying dogs in pet stores. I really don't feel sorry for the consumer. Perhaps she and all her friends will think twice about giving money to those who support the puppy mill industry.
Joseph Herbert January 01, 2012 at 06:41 AM
Doreen, I am sorry for You, Your daughter and for Sasha. For anyone interested in purchasing a pet, please take this to heart. Do not deal with a Puppy Mill Pet store or any store where you do not personally know the owner. The smartest way to purchase a pure breed dog is through an AKC Registered Breeder where you can select from a litter, ACFA for cats. For someone who isn't particular about a "breed" the local county shelters have a selection of healthy loving pets.
tweetiexx January 01, 2012 at 06:54 AM
@ Carol I was raised to feel sorry for lonely pathetic people like you.
Steve Cacamese January 01, 2012 at 12:47 PM
@ carol Haven't you ever made a mistake? To call ms. Lingo Pathetic is heartless and cruel. She did everything she could to save Sasha. I "rescued" what I thought were 2 labradoodles from a shelter in St. Louis. Only $100 adoption fee each so this must be legitimate..... Right? WRONG!!! I drive to St. Louis, The place was clean, When see the puppies, they are VERY small. I say there is no way these are labradoodles. They also did not look 9 weeks old. But I just drive 1000 miles so I bring them home. Long story short, BOTH had Parvo. $6500 later thank God both survived. North Star Vets in Millstone did an amazing job. I complained to Missouri authorities. What did they do? Nothing. Ms. Longo, I am so sorry for this ordeal and for the loss of Sasha. However if not for you. Sasha would have died alone. At least she had some comfort from you at the end. I know that is not much. Again, I am so sorry for your loss.
Katy Lake January 01, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Doreen, I'm so sorry about your puppy. She was a beautiful dog! Anyone who tries to blame you for what happened is a monster! Or more likely a troll for the puppy mill store.
jules mazza January 01, 2012 at 01:50 PM
All the more reason to not buy from puppy stores. There are many breeders who sell quality pups. Do your homework.
janice January 01, 2012 at 03:17 PM
im sorry about the puppy being sick but when will people learn that buying from a pet store is in fact buying from a puppy mill and if people did their research they would never do it again. if you want to spend 950.00 on a dog go to a shelter adopt one and donate the rest to them. you will save a life have a pet that will love you and feel good about the great thing you did. people need to stop supporting these stores and they and the puppy mills will shut down and if they tell you they do not get the dogs from these mills they are lying to you
Arlene M. Baladi January 01, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Doreen...my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your beloved Sasha! I know that the loss of a dear pet is like losing a family member...may 2012 hold nothing but wonderful events for your family from now on!
CLBair January 01, 2012 at 05:48 PM
We purchased both of our GSD's from Rocco. Our first, a male, was so sick he couldn't eat for weeks, and when he did try to eat he threw up. Thankfully he is now a happy and healthy dog. I just couldn't convince my husband that Rocco was at fault. Our second, a female purchased two years later, was also infested with parasites. She is healthy now too, but I can already see that she is going to have serious hip problems when she is older, and she is only two now. They both had Giardia and worms. When I finally investigated the "papers" that came with my dogs in depth, I found that the "breeders" were actually puppy mills that had several cases brought against them. The one piece of vet paperwork that I got with my male came from the "breeder" when the dog was only 3 weeks old. My female came with no vet paperwork. My husband finally sees the truth now about Rocco. Sadly, a friend of ours purchased a French bulldog from Rocco a few years ago, and she died before she even reached her second year due to some sort of genetic disorder that caused her to become paralyzed,and her body shut down. And I can't tell you how annoyed I was when I read that he has in "infirmary" in his store to care for sick animals. His "infirmary" is a few crates in the back room of the store, with not a qualified vet in sight. I don't care how long Rocco has been in business. That does not mean he should stay in business. He's only looking out for himself, not the animals he sells.
George January 02, 2012 at 09:55 PM
There is a silver lining to this sad situation. Talk this guy up and he'll be gone in no time. Pet lovers are a strong consituency.
CKS January 03, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Hey Michael Cohen...are you really Rocco Guarruto?
Karin Miller Van Dalen January 17, 2012 at 12:34 AM
You're a heartless pig. Keep your comments to yourself. When will people like you realize how nasty you are? She lost a member of her family!
Randal Graves January 17, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Having lost a dog myself to Parvo I know the feeling with that said there is enough homeless animals being destroyed day in and day out, Adopt a pet before buying one and definitely before buying anything from a pet store those are well known to be dogs from Puppy Mills however you would be surprised how many people are simply not aware of that.
wetfrog18 January 17, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Doreen, what was the outcome at Court? My guess, NOTHING........They all stick together.
Heather C January 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Court was postponed
tweetiexx January 20, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Middlesex County Consumer Affairs v Fancy Puppies to be heard in Woodbridge Municipal Count on 1/26/2012 8:45am. These charges for selling seriously ill puppies. Hopefully it will not be postponed AGAIN.
ginger January 20, 2012 at 08:29 AM
so sorry for your families loss.. However buy from a registered breeder use a pet store you can be GUARANTEED these pups are out of state puppy mill dogs If they are bred in PA oklahoma missouri RUN dont walk!!
wetfrog18 January 20, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!! This will go on and on. He's a shrewd S.O.B. I wonder how many businesses he's had for the past 11 years or so. This Fancy Pups has only been there for a few years. It also says on the store front "we specialize in small breeds" What a bull crapper.
Jan Fisher January 22, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Unfortunately, the Longo's experience is typical of pet shop purchases. WHEN WILL THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THAT PET SHOP PUPPIES COME FROM MASS BREEDING FACILITIES AND THAT MEANS UNSANITARY CONDITIONS, LONG TRANSPORTS OF YOUNG PUPPIES WITH WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEMS AND ILLNESS!!! This poor family is devastated, the poor puppy lost his life and Rocco Garruto the owner of Fancy Pups keeps taking his check to bank at the expense of these people and the animals that breed for life in puppy mills. This man insults our intelligence to insinuate that the Longos had anything to do with the puppy contracting parvo (not unless they own the puppy mill or do the transport of puppies). The puppy was in the home 3 days - not long enough for parvo to incubate. Rocco Garruto is a liar and is making excuses. Guess what, Mr. Garruto? Your business is fraudulent as it deceives the consumer into believing that your puppies are healthy and come from good breeders. You are a disgrace to the human race. As far as your children go, when they are old enough to realize the money you made was off of the backs of innocent animals in puppy mills, I hope they lose all respect for your business. I wish I could talk to Ms. Longo personally as we are working to rid our state of bad businesses like this. D. Fisher, Manasquan, NJ.
Jan Fisher January 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
One more comment. Please consider starting peaceful demonstrations on the public right-of-way at his store. We are doing this in various towns. It is perfectly legal and you can, at least, warn others about the heartache you have experienced. You can also educate the public on the subject matter of where these puppies really come from. Any of you animal lovers/advocates can join in or start the group. You don't need a lot of people or a lot of money. If anyone needs help, contact jfdf2@optonline.net and we will be happy to get you started. You will be doing such good for the sake of these pathetic souls in the puppy mills.
tweetiexx January 23, 2012 at 05:25 PM
The sad story of Sasha will be airing tonight on WABC news during the 11 pm news broudcast. Please watch and of course please share. The public needs to be aware that Fancy Puppies/Rocco Garruto is selling serioulsy ill puppies who have died. Also please know they will be answering charges brought by Middledsex County Consumer Affairs on 1/26/2012 8:45am. This case is dealing with 8 affected families and their puppies who have suffered tremendously at the hands of this MONSTER.
Heather C January 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Watch Doreen here if you missed it!!! = http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/video?id=8516264
Heather C January 24, 2012 at 04:49 PM
He messed with the wrong families this time. He will get whats coming to him!
Jan Fisher January 24, 2012 at 05:16 PM
If everyone who sympathizes with Doreen would make a commitment to one weekend day for a few hours to stop by the store and peacefully demonstrate, this would make a big impact. Our group does this for other local pet stores (Breeder's Association of America in Brick, NJ and American Puppy Club, Middletown, NJ). It is, by far, the most satisfying thing because we actually educate people. It is ALL legal and we have been doing this for a year with the blessing of the municipality and the police dept. PLEASE CONSIDER JOINING US. Contact: jfdf2@optonline.net
Deborah Bell (Editor) January 24, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Hi, everyone who is following this. I did an update on the story: http://patch.com/A-qwDy
Heather C February 01, 2012 at 12:55 AM
any victims of rocco please consider this http://heyburnlaw.com/?s=fancy+pups&search=Search
tweetiexx February 01, 2012 at 05:07 AM
After some real difficult legwork. My puppy was a puppy mill dog. Sasha was purchased from a Jacob Beiler in Kirkwood, PA. Mr. Beiler is not licensed as required by law. Gretta Rosie (my pups mother) has had litters in the Spring 2011, October 2011 and is pregnant again. Rocco told me he WAS the breeder. All info was obtained from the AKC, The USDA and Mr. Beiler. Rocco Garruto is a vile and evil scam artist. He defaulted on restitution payment #1 for the other 7 families of dead/sick puppies. That was why he was in court. Does anyone think there will be justice for these puppies? Heck no not when the Woodbridge Mayor and his spokesman Haggerty is protecting this MONSTER (they refer to Rocco as an honest businessman). If you want justice because you purchased a sick/dead pup from Rocco Garruto/ Fancy Puppies please contact Edward Harrington Heyburn at 609-259-7600 Rocco's next court date is 2/9/2012 1pm. I WILL BE THERE.
Jeff February 23, 2012 at 03:06 AM
this is an awful story; so sad to hear that the dog did not make it. This "Fancy Pups" has been there for several years now (not sure if it is 9yrs); I have been in there a few times before and the place seemed clean and well kept. HOWEVER, this doesn't ensure that a puppy is healthy! No puppy should have parvovirus; that is unacceptable.
Jeff February 23, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I've owned pups both from breeders and pet shops; worms are not uncommon, even when they have been wormed. Giardi has been going around lately (my last pup got it, from where I can't say).. But the parvo is very serious and tells you that this guy is not taking the proper steps. Also, there should be several guarantees you get at time of purchase INCLUDING a vet's certification of good health!
tweetiexx February 26, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Rocco Garruto's lawyer gleads GUILTY....Birds of a feather flock together!!!!! http://www.app.com/article/20120222/NJNEWS/302220056/Marlboro-lawyer-investment-broker-plead-guilty-mortgage-loan-scheme

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