Animal cruelty charges dismissed against exotic pet store owner after business closed

Becky Campbell • Oct 3, 2019 at 11:00 PM

A man who owned an exotic pet store in Johnson City had animal cruelty charges dismissed this week in Washington County General Sessions Court after promising to close shop and move out of the county.

There was no indication if Corey B. Houser, 40, would open another pet store, but the agreement prosecutors and his attorney, Gene Scott, worked out does not prevent a new business.

“Mr. Houser decided to move his business out of Washington County and ultimately the charges were dismissed,” Scott said. “There was never any proof any of the animals were harmed in any way. It was more of allegations of dirty reptile cages.”

Houser 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 Houser owned — Village Pets, at 711 W. Market St. — on 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 was been reset several times, but state prosecutors and Scott reached an agreement in June that would shut down the business and prevent Houser from reopening in Washington County. Houser accepted the agreement.

The agreement stated that if Houser paid all court costs on one count of animal cruelty and the business was shut down by Sept. 24, then the charges would be dismissed.

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.