City shutting down exotic pet store

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The city is shutting down an exotic pet store, charging that it keeps importing and selling animals it has no business dealing with.

It is unclear whether Fins ‘N Critters will open back up Wednesday.

The city said it has revoked the store’s permit, but that didn’t stop the shop from opening up earlier Tuesday.

At Lomas and Eubank in Albuquerque, a neon sign welcomes visitors into the Fins ‘N Critters pet store.

The sign said they are open.

The city said that is a problem.

“From the time this order was signed, they do not have a pet store permit,” said Lt. Christopher Romero with Animal Welfare.

He is talking about an order signed Monday, which denies Fins ‘N Critters’ appeal and revokes the owner’s pet store permit.

“So, they should not be selling animals today?,” KRQE asked Romero.

“That’s right,” he said.

Romero said the store has been illegally bringing reptiles like snakes, lizards and turtles into New Mexico and selling them without the proper permits.

In some cases, it may pose health concerns.

“Certain types or breeds of turtles could be dangerous to small children or they could spread salmonella,” Lt. Romero said.

The owner, Francisco Matteson, wouldn’t do an interview Tuesday, but when he approached a KRQE crew outside his store Monday, he denied the city’s claims.

“See, we don’t even import anything. Everything we get is local,” Matteson said.

Matteson did not show up to the hearing Monday.

He said everything was already taken care of.

“You know what? I went down there to Animal Welfare and gave them all the receipts that we had for the, for the animals that we had in question. All the receipts and copies of them,” he said.

If the store doesn’t shut down, the owner could be cited and taken to court.

“We’re obviously going to check up on them,” Lt. Romero said.

Romero said if the store owner is convicted of operating without a permit, he could face a $500 fine or 90 days in jail.

The owner of Fins ‘N Critters has been in trouble with the law before.

He was convicted of forgery and arrested with two of his employees after police said they roughed up a teen the workers thought had stolen a ferret from the store.

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