East Providence woman pleads not guilty to running illegal pet shop

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A woman accused of illegally breeding and selling dogs out of her East Providence home faced a judge Wednesday.

Rachel Duarte, 40, of Riverside, pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of animal cruelty and 365 counts of operating as a breeder and pet shop without a license, which is one count for each day of 2017.

East Providence Animal Control last month seized dozens of animals from Duarte’s Floyd Avenue home, including 22 cats and 20 dogs. Conditions at the house were so poor the house was condemned on the spot by a building inspector.

Of the 20 dogs, 17 were puppies. Some of those puppies were infected with parvovirus, which caused the East Providence Animal Shelter to go under quarantine. One of the puppies ending up dying of the disease.

Court documents reveal police were notified on Jan. 12 that a “suspicious looking white van” pulled up to the home and dropped off a load of puppies in filthy conditions.

Police said Duarte told them she had gotten the dogs – 17 puppies and 1 bulldog – off of Craigslist. Investigators said that wasn’t the case.

According to police, Duarte rented the van and conspired with an unknown person to pick up the puppies in Arkansas. Court documents state the puppies were transported “inhumanely” in the van in “crates too small for all the puppies to freely move, while covered in feces.”

Police said there were no health certificates for the dogs and determined Duarte had been running a breeding and pet shop operation from her home since as far back as 2014.

Duarte was released on $10,000 personal recognizance and ordered to have no pets at home, aside from a certified cat for her autistic son.