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South Dakota pet store owner charged with abuse agrees to pay $40K to Humane Society

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The owner of a Rapid City pet store raided last fall after being accused of animal abuse must pay $40,000 to the Humane Society of the Black Hills and surrender all of her animals except two personal pets, according to a plea and settlement agreement released by the city.

The agreements were reached Tuesday, March 26, in a case that pitted Rapid City against Marinda Parks, owner of the Pitter Patter Pet Store.

While the city was confident it would have won at trial, it's better to settle the case so the seized animals can get into safe homes as soon as possible, Kinsley Groote, assistant city attorney, said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

"This is just the best thing for the animals," she said. "Everyone wanted to get them to good homes. That was the primary purpose of all of this, was take them away from the bad environment and get them into good homes."

Tim Rensch, Parks' defense lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Parks will plead guilty to three of the 55 charges, the plea agreement says. Groote and Rensch will both ask the judge to sentence Parks to 30 days in jail suspended, which means she won't serve any jail time as long as she follows certain conditions.

Parks was facing one count of maintenance of places where animals were kept, 27 counts of inhumane treatment and 27 counts of care and treatment violations — a total of 55 charges. She was originally facing more than 200 charges after animal control officers seized pets along with a number of dead animals from the store in August.

Written reports alleged that the animals lived in unsanitary and unethical conditions alongside dead animals.

The Humane Society and Reptile Gardens have been caring for the 106 seized dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, snakes, spiders and other animals, said Jacque Harvey, executive director of the Humane Society. All but two of the animals — Parks' personal pet shepherd and an iguana — will be put up for adoption once they are spayed and neutered.

"This has been a big strain on staff caring for all of these animals. So as each one walks out of the door, we're going to be smiling and happy," Harvey said.

Groote estimated that the Humane Society has spent more than $150,000 in boarding and health care costs for the animals. Parks will have to pay $40,000 of that amount plus court and her lawyer's fees.

Parks is also banned from owning or working at any South Dakota pet store, boarding facility or breeding operation for three years and must wait five years before applying for a kennel license in Rapid City.

As to how to prevent similar animal abuse cases, Groote and Harvey said the public should call 911 or animal control if they suspect abuse. Groote also encouraged people to ask questions and be observant when they consider buying a pet.

"Just look at the condition of things like the tanks and the enclosures that the animals are in," she said.

Harvey said she is against pet stores in the first place, saying it's impossible for small stores and staff to properly care for puppies who need regular attention.

"There's no way you can take care of them as they should be taken care of," she said.

Harvey said 27 people are needed to properly take care of animals at the Humane Society, which has features like a drainage system so kennels can be regularly cleaned.

Before obtaining a kennel license, pet store owners must have their facility inspected to make sure it's following animal welfare regulations, said Kelsey Harty, an animal control officer.

She said the Pitter Patter Pet Store hadn't been inspected since it was not yet open, and the abuse was only caught early on due to a concerned citizen.