|Sent on:||Saturday, August 18, 2012 7:24 AM|
Pet Station owner facing 4 years in prison!
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012
By Joe Slezak Twitter @ JoeSlezak1
DETROIT — Ramzi Dakhlallah, who was charged with several counts of animal cruelty after authorities raided his pet store in Dearborn Heights on April 11, pleaded guilty to several charges Friday before Wayne County Circuit Judge Thomas Jackson.
Daklallah, 41, owned Pet Station, 5317 S. Telegraph Road, two blocks north of Van Born Road, where authorities seized more than 200 animals.
He pleaded guilty to one count of abandon/cruelty to 10 or more animals; one count of false pretenses, $200 to $1,000; one count of writing a check with nonsufficient funds; 20 counts of pet shop violations; one count of pet shop rule violations; and 11 counts of Animal Industry Act rule violations.
He will be sentenced Sept. 12 and is facing four years or more in prison.
Daklallah is free on a $25,000 cash or surety bond for himself and a $10,000 personal bond for Pet Station.
Pet Station had been in business since the late 1970s, and Daklallah bought it about five years ago.
Authorities said they began receiving complaints about Pet Station in July 2009 and started investigating. They allegedly found dead animals on the floor; scarce food and water for the animals; and urine and feces in cages. The business was accused of selling sick pets and pets falsely advertised as having their vaccinations to unknowing customers.
One complaint from the Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society in 2010 was that there was a dead puppy in a cage and other puppies were jumping around it. When employees were told, they allegedly waited on several customers before placing the dead puppy in a plastic shopping bag without checking its pulse and putting it in a back room.
“The conditions were worse than we thought,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Parisa Kiani said at Daklallah’s arraignment April 11 before 20th District Judge David Turfe. “This isn’t a case of neglect. This is a case of cruelty, your honor, and this is something that has been going on for two years.”
Dearborn Heights police and the Michigan Humane Society seized 20 dogs and 70 birds, along with guinea pigs, hamsters, frogs, snakes, lizards, tarantulas, chinchillas, mice and rats. More than 200 animals went into the care of the Humane Society, which reported that a lizard and a puppy died within 24 hours of the raid. The Humane Society offered some of the animals for adoption; some were sent to transfer partners for specialized care.
Daklallah maintained that he kept “stacks” of business records in accordance with state law, had a five-day return policy on any pet he sold, offered free veterinary check-ups before sales were final and personally inoculated each puppy that he sold, which prosecutors disputed.
He said at the time that there had been some complaints about his store, but they were outweighed by satisfied customers.
“I sell 50 puppies a month,” he said at the time. “If you have like five unhealthy, (it) doesn’t mean I’m not good.”
In a related case, federal charges were dismissed June 25 against two men accused of selling invasive fish species. One of the men, Ash Khatib, managed Pet Station and allegedly sold a walking catfish to an undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent and connected the agent with a snakehead fish dealer.
The other man who was charged, Daniel Thacker of Wayne, allegedly sold a redline snakehead to the agent. Thacker allegedly later sold 10 ocellated snakeheads to another undercover agent.
Federal authorities raided Thacker’s house, and he allegedly told them that he was selling the fish for Khatib because he didn’t want them in the store. Khatib allegedly confirmed Thacker’s account.
Khatib and Thacker were charged June 4 before U.S. Magistrate David Grand.
Authorities moved June 22 to dismiss the charges because they said they couldn’t properly prosecute the case within 30 days. They said they needed more time to develop and obtain evidence, identify who should be held criminally responsible and decide whether to prosecute them.
U.S. Magistrate Steven Whalen dismissed the charges without prejudice three days later.
(Staff Writer J. Patrick Pepper contributed to this report.)
Contact Staff Writer Joe Slezak at[masked]-0835. Follow him on Twitter @ JoeSlezak1.