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TOTOWA, NJ — A heartbroken and traumatized Amy Arito is still coming to terms with the loss of her 8-month-old black lab mix Stella, who died during what was a standard spaying procedure at Totowa Animal Hospital.

“I kissed her and I watched her go in and that was it, she was gone,” a tearful Arito told PIX11.

The pup – which was a recent addition to the family – was a gift from her husband as she battled breast cancer. 

On July 21, she brought the dog to the Totowa Animal Hospital, leaving her in the care of Alia Muslih. Hours later Arito received a call that shook her to the core.

The person on the phone told her Stella had died.

“And I just lost it,” Arito said. “I said ‘no I have to go to surgery still and I still need her by my side, she has to be there for me,’”

A healthy and lively young pup was gone. Arito now lives with regret.

“I could’ve waited, I could’ve waited,” she said.

When the Woodland Park mom started asking questions, nothing added up.

Paperwork was filled with errors and It was unclear who even performed the procedure.

“She could not provide me a license,” Arito said. “From there I did not rest, I went to the police department and I filed a complaint against her.”

An investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office determined that the Totowa Animal Hospital, which was run out of the Seven Star Pet Resort also in Totowa, was unlicensed.

Owner Alia Muslih, 39, allegedly took over the business after her husband passed away from COVID. Muslih allegedly continued to operate the clinic under the false impression that she was a licensed veterinarian.

The Montclair woman was arrested last Friday and charged with animal cruelty, theft by deception, corporate misconduct and unlicensed possession of prescription drugs

While Arito is thankful that justice was served, the pain still runs deep.

She hopes by telling her story, others come forward in the case against the facility.

“She was supposed to be here throughout my whole journey and I have a long way to go still and I lost my girl,” Arito said.

If you brought your pet down to the Totowa Animal Hospital and now have concerns about their treatment, you are being urged to contact Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office as soon as possible.