Small claims, misdemeanor cases are moving forward against puppy store operator
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Since opening in the spring of 2008, Broc’s Puppies has attracted plenty of attention. Protesters picketed the store as recently as this month and the South Lake Tahoe City Council created a ban on the retail sale of cats and dogs in response to claims pet stores like Broc’s are selling dogs raised by high-volume breeders known as puppy mills. The store’s one-time operator, Dennis Franks, has denied allegations of selling puppy mill-bred dogs, but has still attracted attention in South Shore courtrooms. Three misdemeanor counts against Franks are likely headed to trial and three small claims suits have been filed against Franks in regards to dogs sold at the store. And felony charges are likely on the way, according to an El Dorado County prosecutor. Franks said he didn’t understand why he faces prosecution during a phone interview on Wednesday. “How can they try to give me a felony for selling dogs?” Franks asked. “I’m not a bad guy; I didn’t do anything,” Franks added. “I tried to help people. I tried to be as nice as I can.” He denied previous reports that he was the owner of Broc’s on Wednesday, but declined to say who owns the puppy store. City documents list Broc Alexander Franks as the owner. Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said he expects to file felony charges against Franks as a result of a June raid where South Lake Tahoe police confiscated a computer with documents pertaining to sales at the pet store. Uthe said he didn’t know the exact nature of the new charge or charges, but said they will relate to “record keeping and the manner in which dogs were sold out of there.” Uthe’s statement comes at a time when the June warrant service has been criticized by City Councilman Bill Crawford. At the Jan. 12 South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting, just days after the arrest of four employees at the store for alleged drug possession and parole violations, the council directed city staff to review Broc’s to see if it is in compliance with city licensing requirements. Councilman Bill Crawford opposed the move, saying the lack of prosecution stemming from the June raid represented a “creeping attitude about a police state in this town.” “I want to know what happened as a result of the police raid in June, because it seems to me that if there is a criminal act been committed then people should be charged,” Crawford said. “So far as a result of the June raid, and that’s what it was, nothing has happened, and I think the city is derelict in not moving the police department and the county prosecutors to get off the dime one way or the other.” Uthe had initially hoped to have the investigation regarding the puppy store completed in a matter or weeks following the June warrant service, but said progress on the prosecution has been stymied by a number of high-profile cases in the county. The cases against Nancy and Phillip Garrido for their alleged kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard, murder charges against El Dorado Hills teens Tylar Witt and Steven Colver and the Ulysses Roberson murder trial have taken time away from the necessary review of the documents seized from Broc’s, Uthe said. The recent robbery of a CVS Pharmacy in South Lake Tahoe also occurred just before he was going to review the almost 1,000 pages of documents in the case, Uthe added. “Violent crimes obviously get the highest priority,” Uthe said. “We don’t have the resources to do everything at once. I wish we did, but we don’t.” Uthe said he did not know when any new charges could be filed against Franks. The expected felony charge or charges against Franks are unrelated to a misdemeanor case, which is further along in the court process, Uthe said. Three misdemeanor charges – including one for alleged animal cruelty – were filed against Franks in July for Franks’ alleged refusal to give a Shetland sheep dog puppy proper veterinary care and being evasive when questioned about it by a county animal services officer. Franks called the misdemeanor charges “ridiculous,” saying the dog was taken to a veterinarian immediately after sustaining the injury and was cared for properly. “It makes me mad; they’re wasting my time, my money,” Franks said. He said he has spent thousands of dollars in legal expenses. “I’m going to straighten the whole thing out when I’m court. I’m not going to be bothered any more by it,” Franks said. The misdemeanor charges against Franks are scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 23. Two small claims suits against Franks have already been resolved, and a third is headed to court in March. On Oct. 2, Judge Richard Specchio ordered Franks to pay a Walnut Creek couple $533.44 for medical expenses related to a Pom poodle the couple bought from Broc’s Puppies last March. The poodle had two ear infections and the intestinal parasites Giardia and Isospora, according to veterinary records. The veterinarian who examined the puppy noted the problems were “well established” and existed at the time of purchase, according to court documents. Franks called the court on the day of the hearing to try and reschedule, saying he was sick and could not attend. Because Franks made the call at the last minute, the judge proceeded with the hearing as scheduled. On Dec. 11, Specchio ordered Franks to pay $1,081 to Laura Hanson for selling her a puppy she believed to be a purebred Yorkshire terrier. DNA testing revealed the puppy was at least 25 percent pointer. Franks did not attend the hearing where Specchio ruled in favor of Hanson. The puppy store operator requested the hearing be delayed because district attorneys have the computer with “all the paperwork required to present a defense in this case,” according to court documents. On Dec. 18, South Shore residents Michael and Jessica Barnhart filed a small claims suit against Franks because of two dogs they purchased in June. One dog died after 12 hours and the other was sick for three months, according to the suit. The couple is asking for $7,500 for the price of the puppies and pain and suffering endured by the family because of the purchases. The hearing in that case has been set for March 25. The suit also names Dennis Franks’ brother, David Franks, and father, Richard Franks, as defendants. David Franks was among those arrested on a fugitive warrant at the store earlier this month. An extradition hearing for David Franks is scheduled for Friday morning. Dennis Franks said he didn’t know anything about the reasons behind the arrests of employees at the store.