SAFETY HARBOR — It all started on a Sunday afternoon 19 months ago when a couple of moms brought their kids to look at puppies at a pet store.

This dog was among the 38 puppies confiscated from Nowakowski in Safety Harbor and in Tarpon Springs in 2010.

The front door was open at PuppyLuv, 2471 McMullen-Booth Road, but no one was tending the sales floor. Inside, the would-be customers found dozens of dogs crowded in pens without food or water. Some were covered in their own filth.

What they found led investigators to confiscate 38 puppies from two locations, and to arrest the shop’s owner on 38 counts of animal cruelty.

Now, a year and a half later, he’s finally facing jail time. Earlier this week, Bernard E. Nowakowski, 60, of Port Richey, pleaded guilty to 38 misdemeanor counts of animal neglect, a lesser charge.

He must report soon to the Pinellas County Jail, where he’ll serve a 30-day sentence. He also was sentenced to 10 years probation, and is not allowed to work with or sell animals during that time.

“Puppies are like babies,” Assistant State Attorney Frank Piazza said, because they can’t survive unless someone “feeds them and provides for them — and that’s what he wasn’t doing.”

Nowakowski didn’t return calls for comment this week.

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