The case between the owner of an Avenel pet store and the buyer of a puppy from that store that died of a dreaded canine disease has just ratcheted up a few notches.
Doreen Longo, whose German shepherd puppy passed away from parvovirus less than two weeks after she bought the dog from Fancy Pups, was served with papers to appear in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick today.
Both Longo and her attorney, Edward Harrington Heyburn, are being ordered into court by Fancy Pups owner Rocco Garruto, who is seeking a restraining order against Longo for her Internet posts and her attorney for a video of Garruto he posted to his law firm's webpage and Youtube account.
Garruto's attorney, Milton Bouhoutsos, Jr., accused Longo and Heyburn of "judicial vigilantism," saying that Longo's accusations and Heyburn's efforts to find other clients who had negative dealings with Fancy Pups has caused Garruto's business to tank.
According to Bouhoutsos' brief, Garruto went from selling 15 to 20 puppies a month to almost none. The business "has decreased to a point where [Garruto and his wife, both owners of Fancy Pups] will be unable to keep their doors open."
The puppy store "has been crippled by the negative arsenal of comments made by the defendants on the internet," the show cause order said.
Longo said she got the papers less than two days before she was supposed to appear in court. She had planned on going to court Thursday morning in Woodbridge, because interestingly, her case against Garruto - on file with several others with the Middlesex County Department of Consumer Affairs - was supposed to be heard yet again.
Several pet owners who say they were sold sick or dying animals have filed complaints with Consumer Affairs, which has jurisdiction over pet store sales under a New Jersey "Puppy Lemon Law."
In February, Garruto pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud with the Puppy Lemon Law.
Instead of being in Woodbridge in the morning, Longo said, she'll be in New Brunswick this afternoon - but without her attorney. That's because the restraining order has made it a conflict of interest for Heyburn to represent Longo in the restraining order action today.
"I can't find an attorney in less than two days," Longo said. Unless there's a change in finding legal representation, she said she'll be representing herself in court.
In the show cause order, Garruto is asking for the court to stop both Longo and Heyburn from posting anything about him on the Internet or in social media. He also wants both the client and attorney to issue retractions and apologies, and print it in Woodbridge-area newspapers for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Bouhoutsos, Garruto's attorney, also made the allegation that on April 29, Longo had called the Woodbridge Police Department and made an "anonymous" complaint that Fancy Pups had dead puppies in their dumpster.
In addition to other charges, the lawyer also alleges that Longo was somehow behind a protest the same day made by members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The papers claim that the protesters "jumped into the dumpster" to look for the supposed dog carcasses.
Longo said she's "astonished" by claims of Garruto's attorney, who is the second lawyer he has had in his fights with Longo and other dissatisfied customers. His first lawyer, in an unrelated action, pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is currently serving time in jail.
Longo said that the charges are untrue.
"I didn't make any anonymous complaints to the police. I had absolutely nothing to do with that protest. In fact, I knew nothing about it until I got served with these papers!" she said.
PETA, headquartered in Washington, D.C., said in a statement they had nothing to do with any protests in New Jersey on April 29.