Groomer ordered to pay after animals seized

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A dog groomer in Cheektowaga has a week to come up with the money needed to help care for animals taken away from her business.

A judge has ordered 53-year-old Tammy Pokigo to pay $2,600 by next Thursday to help treat seven dogs that remain at the SPCA of Erie County.

PHOTOS | Click here to see a gallery of the SPCA removing the animals

Around two dozen dogs and cats were removed from TLC Grooming Plus on Genesee Street last month. SPCA investigators say the animals were living in filth.

“We’re still treating some of the animals. There were some pretty severe eye infections, a couple ear infections. There was some malnourishment and we’re working on those on a case-by-case basis,” said SPCA Spokeswoman Gina Browning. “It’s hard to say how much it will cost. It’s in the thousands already.”

On the day her animals were seized, Pokigo told News 4, “I am overwhelmed. I am one person and this is a big business.”

She denied the animals were living in filth. “They weren’t living in poop for weeks and weeks and weeks. I clean it up on a daily basis, what’s in the run.”

But the SPCA says based on the conditions of the animals, that isn’t true.

“When they first groom the animal, when they shave the animal, most of the urine and feces comes off. In this situation some of the dogs had feces that permeated the coat and attached itself right to the skin,” said Browning.

An anonymous tip led the SPCA to the site. Investigator Bill Heine first stopped at the grooming and boarding facility to speak with the owner.

“She reluctantly let me inside, found a lot of dogs covered in feces, kennels hadn’t been cleaned in a while,” he said.

Heine said the owner explained the mess by saying it was a long weekend and she hadn’t been able to get all the cleaning done. But he said the dogs had been living in the filth for much longer than a weekend.

“The kennels were dirty, the smell was horrible, and the dogs were living in bad conditions,” said Heine.

The mess may have accumulated over longer span of time than a weekend, but that’s all it took to make one dog incredibly sick. A veterinarian says Saber, an 8-year-old Husky, got a checkup on August 28, before his stay, and afterwards was so ill that he may not live.

“The dog had a healthy checkup on 28th of August in preparation for boarding and his status dramatically changed between then and now,” said Town and Country Animal Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Amy Leach.

Saber was returned to his owner, Dennis Potozniak, and since then has stayed at Town and Country Animal Clinic, where he has suffered seizures and had to receive blood transfusions. Potozniak says Saber was dehydrated.

“If you would have asked me on Labor Day evening, I didn’t think we were going to have him after that. I thought he was going to have to get put down because he was so sick,” he said.

Pokigo has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of animal neglect and abuse by neglect. Her daughter also faces an animal cruelty charge.

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