CORPUS CHRISTI — The owner of the pet shop inside the Trade Center last Friday was in municipal court this morning. The hearing was to determine if he'll face animal cruelty charges.
The owner of Pets and More Plus, Arslan Ijaz, says it was all a misunderstanding. He claims the raid happened at a bad time. Staff didn't have a chance to clean from the day before, and the pet shop just received a big delivery of 400 birds that morning.
"They have to understand the truth. Those animals are never there like that. That day was just a delivery, and because of the delivery, they're making a big scene about it.
Ajiz says when animal care raided his shop, his staff didn't have a chance to set up the newly ordered bird cages either.
"As soon as we got there and we were doing what we're supposed to be doing, they stopped us. We got out of the building, and they seized everything."
Ijaz, who bought the shop about a year ago, says the animals are fed every day of the week, except one. He says that one day, the Trade Center is closed and no one is allowed in.
Animal Control Services says they seized 426 animals, because of complaints that they were not being fed or cared for properly.
"We've seen dead animals there several time, no food present, no water present. If there was water, it was green in color," said Vanessa Scarbrough, an animal control cruelty investigator.
Ijaz says there was no food because the animals ate it from the previous day. As for the water, he says any pet owner knows that if you set out water the day before, it's going to be dirty the next day.
Last Friday was not the first time animal cruelty investigators had visited the shop. They've been following up since June 14.
"We've gone several times to make contact with the owner and speak to him about conditions," said Scarbrough, "and informed him things needed to be improved."
Now, Ijaz hopes he has the chance to work with the city and get everything up to code so he can get his animals back.
"If I'm doing something wrong, I acknowledge it, and I'm willing to work with it to perform better."
Ijaz also claims that he had put someone in charge of the shop and that person didn't do a good job. Now, the shop is closed as Ijaz continues to clean and renovate, in hopes of getting the animals back.
The hearing will continue next Friday. Ijaz is asking for some of his former customers to testify then. He says they know he takes care of his animals, and he hopes they'll convince the judge to give him another chance.