Missouri man arrested following altercation outside Pups4Love

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Rino DiMaria, 48, after the incident. (Photo courtesy of Rino DiMaria)

A Missouri man has been arrested in connection with an assault on a Roslyn man last Wednesday outside a pet store, Pups4Love, in Albertson.

Christopher Hyde, 40, of Springfield, Missouri, has been charged with third-degree assault following an incident at a local puppy store. (Photo courtesy of Nassau County Police Department)

Christopher Hyde, 40, of Springfield, Missouri, has been charged with third-degree assault after kicking and punching Rino DiMaria in the parking lot of the puppy store located at 957 Willis Ave., according to Nassau County police.

Police are still searching for two other men wanted in the incident. Hyde is not an employee at Pups4Love.

DiMaria said he was recording the delivery of dogs to the store with his cellphone before the assault occurred.

The confrontation has sparked a social media backlash against Pups4Love on both Facebook and Yelp since DiMaria published a video of the altercation online in which he and store owner Barry Forrest engaged in an obscenity-riddled argument before the assault occurred.

In a statement posted to Pups4Love’s Facebook page, the store wrote that DiMaria verbally taunted the man and others from his car, and apologized for the language that Forrest used in the video, calling it “indelicate” and saying that he “let his anger get the better of him under the circumstances.”

“The man who verbally insulted the delivery drivers also made allegations that our puppies come from ‘puppy mills,’ which is untrue,” the statement said. “All of our dogs come from USDA certified and licensed breeders.”

Forrest declined to provide additional comment.

DiMaria, owner of Joanne’s Gourmet Pizza on Northern Boulevard in Roslyn, said that while sitting in his car in the parking lot before dropping his dry cleaning off, he observed two white vans unloading dogs.

The vans had Arkansas and Missouri license plates, according to DiMaria.

Missouri, according to the Kansas City Star, has been named often and most recently at the top of the Humane Society of the United States’ “Horrible Hundred” report. The list names 100 locations nationwide where dogs “have been found sick, injured or starving in poor, sometimes dirty, conditions” at puppy mills, according to the Star.

According to the 2018 report, there are 23 locations in Missouri that fit that description.

The company statement emphasized that Hyde and the two other unidentified men are not employees of Pups4Love, but delivery drivers that “work very hard to ensure that all puppies are safely transported to our store and to many other pet stores around our region as well.”

Deanna’s Loving Companions Transportation, based in Missouri, lists Hyde as a lead driver for the company. A Facebook profile with Hyde’s photos also lists him as an employee of the company. The company’s website describes itself as a pet delivery service serving several states on the East Coast, including New York.

Deanna’s Loving Companions Transportation is not named in the “Horrible Hundred” list.

Efforts to reach the company for comment were unavailing.

DiMaria, who described himself as an animal and dog advocate, said that he took out his cellphone to record the delivery.

“This is where the puppies that you buy come from people,” DiMaria said in the video. “From a van.”

An unidentified woman and man approach DiMaria, and the man reached into DiMaria’s vehicle in an attempt to obstruct the recording, according to the video. The man and woman then leave the side of DiMaria’s vehicle.

Pups4Love owner Barry Forrest, in a still from the video. (Photo courtesy of Rino DiMaria)

Later in the recording, Forrest approaches DiMaria’s vehicle, yells profanely and asks him several times to leave the parking lot.

After the recording ended one subject, who has not yet been apprehended by police, removed DiMaria from his car and began to assault him, according to DiMaria and police.

“They began beating the crap out of me,” DiMaria said.

DiMaria landed on the ground and Hyde began kicking and punching him in the face and body, DiMaria and police said. DiMaria was transported to the hospital once police arrived and suffered swelling and wounds to his head.

The unidentified man fled but Hyde remained at the scene and was arrested without incident, according to police. Hyde was arraigned last Thursday.

Efforts to reach Hyde were unavailing.

DiMaria said he turned to vegetarianism nearly 10 years ago, when he watched a video on animal cruelty after logging into Facebook. He added that he is an active advocate for shelter adoptions and raised questions about the origin of the dogs at Pups4Love.

“If [Forrest] wants to end all the questions, post where the puppies are coming from,” DiMaria said.

On the Pups4Love website and in the Facebook statement, the company said that all of the puppies are from certified Department of Agriculture licensed breeders and facilities and that they provide every customer with the U.S.D.A. license number of the breeder.

“We understand how easy it is for false information to be spread and have worked extremely hard to ensure families are comfortable with the puppies they are bringing home to their families,” the statement said. “We only want the very best for our puppies and our customers.”

The store has received numerous one-star reviews on Yelp, a crowd-sourcing website for local business reviews, as well as negative posts and comments on its Facebook page since the incident.

Since the altercation, a Facebook event protesting the store has been organized, set for Saturday, Feb. 16, at 12:30 p.m.

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