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Agreement with prosecutors will close Johnson City pet store

Becky Campbell • Updated Jul 29, 2019 at 7:34 PM

The owner of an exotic pet store — charged two years ago on nearly three dozen counts of animal cruelty in Johnson City — will close the business in an agreement reached with prosecutors.

Corey B. Houser, 40, who owns Village Pets, located at 711 W. Market St., was charged in November 2017 with 35 counts of animal cruelty after Animal Control Officer Wayne Thomas issued the citation. Thomas first went to the store Oct. 23, 2017, after Animal Control received a complaint about the conditions there, where he reported finding “35 pet cages that were … extremely filthy.”

The case has been reset several times, but state prosecutors and Houser, through his attorney Gene Scott, reached an agreement in June that would shut down the business and prevent Houser from reopening in Washington County.

The agreement stated that if Houser pays all court costs on one count of animal cruelty and the business is shut down by Sept. 24, then the charges will be dismissed. The agreement does not prevent Houser from opening a store outside of the county.

When Thomas filed the charges, he documented that birds were without water in their cages, and tanks holding snakes, small mammals, lizards, geckos, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas and fish were “nasty” and littered with feces, old skins and algae.

Thomas said the tanks “were not cleaned properly,” or Houser waited too long between cleanings.

According to the affidavit filed in Washington County General Sessions Court, Thomas visited the store seven weeks before issuing the citation and found the same conditions. He had asked Houser to close the store until he could get it cleaned up and so the shelter wouldn’t receive continuous complaints about the conditions there.

Houser told Thomas at that time that “he was the only person to clean up, that he could not keep help. This has been an ongoing problem for approximately four years.”

Thomas said Houser had received 15 to 20 warnings about the conditions in which he kept the animals before the charges were filed.

Thomas said there were even several dead animals in some of the tanks. The live animals in the store appeared to be healthy, but it was the living conditions for which Houser was cited.

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