GARFIELD, N.J. -- Three Florida residents charged with animal cruelty for packing 26 thirsty, imported puppies into a minivan found parked behind the Walmart in Garfield didn't show up for court Tuesday, authorities said.
As a result, Bergen County animal protection authorities are going to ask a judge for custody of those puppies who survived, a law enforcement told Daily Voice.
Warrants also were issued for their arrest, said the law enforcement official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
One of the suspects, 36-year-old Jesus Gabriel Valentin Rivera, was behind bars in Florida on an unrelated charge, the official told Daily Voice.
They others -- Vanessa Millan, 31, and Elaine Ramos, 27 -- couldn't be accounted for.
The no-shows were all due in Central Municipal Court in Hackensack on Tuesday.
The English and French bulldog puppies "were contained within two cages and one cooler, all of which were feces-littered," Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said when the trio was charged last week. "One of the cages housed thirteen of the puppies.
"The temperature in Garfield that day [Aug. 19] was 90 degrees, and the puppies had no access to water."
"It appears as though they were flown from Colombia to JFK yesterday and were on their way to Florida," Deborah Yankow, director of the Bergen County Animal Shelter, told Daily Voice after the discovery.
(Cartels have been known to import dogs for cash.)
CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME OF THE PUPPIES:
"First thing they did when we got them into the adoption van was lap water," Yanow said.
Yankow and her staff were in the middle of a "Clear the Shelters" event, sponsored nationwide by NBC and Telemundo , when they got a call from the Bergen County SPCA, which seized the puppies.
NBC had to postpone taping a segment as Yankow and her staff took the shelter adoption van to Garfield -- with a news crew tailing them.
"The puppies were behind the store locked in a white minivan," she told Daily Voice. "There were no humans with them.
"Eventually, someone showed up. They were supposed to produce paperwork, but I don't think they did."
The shelter was holding the puppies in the custody of the SPCA until the case is resolved.
The Bergen County Animal Shelter is at 100 United Lane in Teterboro.
- SITE: http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/1002/Animal-Shelter-Adoption-Center
- PHONE: (201) 229-4600
- EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALSO SEE: A 30-year-old Polish immigrant from Garfield survived after being struck by a commuter train late Saturday, NJ Transit told Daily Voice.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.