EXCLUSIVE: Freedom paws owner appears in court; town of Vernon investigating pet shelter

VERNON – A woman accused by some customers of selling sick pets appeared in court Tuesday morning.

Since FOX61 first aired the story, the Town of Vernon has been looking into the woman’s pet shelter called Freedom Paws.

The owner, Roberta Faltus showed up at Rockville Superior Court for 10 a.m. There were members of Desmond’s Army, an animal advocacy group along with the victim, Morgan Seeley.

Shortly after the arraignment began, Roberta and her husband left on what’s called an “out of court continuance,” something that can be requested by the defendant. Roberta left without speaking to FOX61. Meanwhile, Seeley said she is not giving up her fight.

“You’re a coward in my eyes,” said Seeley of Manchester.

Seeley adopted a five and a half-month old mixed black Labrador named Abra and she has continued to get justice for her puppy who died in December. She said she refuses to be another statistic for Faltus.

“Abra was the most purest soul out of any puppy. I’ve ever met and she did not deserve to be neglected in my eyes,” added Seeley.

Seeley was not alone in court. She was joined by three members of Desmond’s Army and they made sure their presence was known by wearing noticeable purple shirts to send a strong message of where they stand on the treatment of animals.

It was the beginning of December when Seeley filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture which led to Roberta facing charges of: operating a facility without a license, failure to maintain medical exams for the dogs and importing them without a health certificate.

“This is extremely illegal. It is reckless. It is dangerous and bottom line it’s murder,” said Christine Kiernan, co-founder of Desmond’s Army.

Last week, FOX61 went to the shelter listed as her home on Scott Drive in Vernon. Roberta was in her driveway and when we asked for a comment, she declined to offer one.

A woman who did not want to be identified reached out to FOX61 after the story was first reported. She said she has reached out to the Town of Vernon zoning officer and animal control officer numerous times but got no response.

“I got no help or really no response and it’s like she basically knew they were coming and she cleaned up the house.”

She added it was in 2013 when she walked into Roberta’s home and witnessed what she described as horrendous conditions.

“There was dog mess on the floor and puppy pads. You know, it was just messy and smelly and dog crates piled on top of each other, cats and dogs and it was just chaotic and smelly.”

FOX61 went to Vernon Town Hall to speak to the zoning officer to get answers, but was directed to the Town Administrator, Michael Purcaro.

After much digging, Purcaro released to us a copy of a zoning violation notice given to Roberta two years ago. In part, it stated, “there are 17 dogs on the property, only five of which are license; the property is not zoned to kennel dogs.”

Purcaro said Faltus complied after the notice but since then, the town has not gone back to her home. He said he did not realize it was becoming a continued issue.

Purcaro then released the following statement:

“Based on the recently reported regulatory actions taken by the State Department of Agriculture, the Town is looking into this matter from a local zoning, public health, and animal control enforcement standpoint. We take all animal care and treatment complaints very seriously.”

The very next day, our camera captured the town showing up to Faltus’ home. She is expected to show in court for her arraignment on February 27th at 10 a.m. at Rockville Superior Court.

Desmond’s Army said if there are more victims out there to immediately come forward and reach out to them.

You may contact them at Desmondsarmy.ct@gmail.com.