A Warren woman who owns an animal shelter in Berkeley Heights has been accused of falsifying records in an attempt to conceal negative information about the health of dogs from prospective adopters.
The Union County Prosecutor's Office said Friday that 55-year-old Toni Turco, who operates Home for Good Dog Rescue, has been charged with with 15 counts of fourth-degree falsifying records for the purpose of deceiving prospective pet owners, two counts of fourth-degree knowingly selling and/or exposing to human contact a pet with a contagious or infectious disease, and a single count of third-degree coercion by threatening to harm an employee’s reputation or livelihood.
An employee, 65-year-old Richard Errico of New Providence, has been charged with false advertising for the purpose of deceiving prospective pet owners.
The state Division of Consumer Affairs and the prosecutor's Special Prosecutions Unit carried out an investigation that determined the shelter, founded in 2010, "scrubbed" dogs' medical histories more than a dozen times in two years, authorities said. The shelter bills itself as a "no-kill" facility that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the southern United States.
The shelter said the animals are provided with critical care at a South Carolina facility before being sent to Home for Good, according to the prosecutor's office.
The Division of Consumer Affairs has also assessed a $2,500 penalty because the shelter allegedly failed to renew paperwork certifying its status as a charity since 2017.
“When properly managed, animal shelters across Union County and beyond perform a deeply valued public service by giving previously abandoned or neglected pets a second chance in life,” Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo said. “But what those in charge of this shelter did amounted to nothing short of a deliberate and flagrant violation of the public’s trust, with conduct that was not only unethical, but criminal.”
Turro and Errico are scheduled to make an initial court appearance Jan. 3. If convicted, Errico faces up to 18 months in prison, while Turro may face three to five years in prison if found guilty on the third-degree charges.
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