It is an increasingly familiar scene. Investigators from the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raid a home to find 50, 100, maybe 400 animals living in squalor. Often they are emaciated and seriously ill.
Last September, SCPA officials discovered more than 300 pigeons at a North Merrick home. The owner let the birds fly around the house, essentially making his home into one big aviary. Investigators found more than two feet of pigeon droppings and bird seed on the floors and even on cabinets throughout the house.
Or maybe an animal is left chained up outside, without food or water, for hours, even days, during a blizzard. Or, perhaps worst of all, a dog — often a pit bull — is beaten in order to teach it to hate and fight. The animal is then paraded around to basement battles where betting is common.
For most of us, our pets are our friends. They’re more than that; they’re members of the family. So for us it’s unimaginable that anyone would be cruel to an animal, which is largely defenseless. (Even the strongest animals are no match for a whip or a Taser — and, yes, there are those who use such instruments on animals.)
Thankfully, the Nassau SPCA and the Nassau County district attorney’s office are teaming up to make sure that officials have all the resources they need to investigate cases of animal cruelty. That was one of D.A. Madeline Singas’s campaign pledges in 2015.
The SPCA and the D.A.’s office will work closely with each other ahead of a raid to determine potential criminal charges, and the D.A. will provide financial assistance to care for impounded animals during criminal investigations and prosecutions. At the same time, the SPCA will provide more training for D.A.’s office investigators.
Here’s the thing: Neither the SPCA nor Singas can stop animal cruelty without public input. Cases are most often uncovered because of anonymous tips phoned in by concerned citizens. If you notice a neighborhood home with an inordinate number of howling dogs and cats, or that smells of animal feces from the street, or if you notice an animal that appears to be neglected or abused, speak up. Call the SPCA.
According to the officials, there are 11 signs of animal abuse and neglect:
• Poor body condition and noticeable trauma. The animal has severe matting and a filthy coat, open sores or obvious wounds. It appears to be flea- or tick-infested. It’s underweight, with the outline of its skeleton clearly visible.
• Lack of food or water. When you see this animal, you notice that it has no obvious sources of food or water. It may be aggressive or lethargic due to starvation and thirst.
• Lack of shelter. The animal is confined in an area exposed to inclement weather or constant sun.
• Lack of sanitation. Feces or debris cover the animal’s living area.
• Abandonment. The animal is left in a house or yard that appears empty. Reports of companion animals abandoned and left to die in vacant buildings or apartment units are alarmingly common.
• The animal is tied or caged. It has little room to move, or is unable to stand or turn.
• There are chains or padlocks around or embedded into the animal’s neck. This includes regular collars, too. A chained animal is an abused animal.
• The animal shows evidence of being trained for or having been used to fight. You might see training implements, treadmills or spring poles. More likely, you’ll notice obvious signs of trauma, such as scars, open wounds, infections or even missing body parts.
• The animal’s behavior is far from normal. It may be extremely aggressive or severely shy.
• There are too many animals living on one property. This can be a sign of animal hoarding.
• An owner being overtly violent against the animal, striking or otherwise physically abusing it.
When you call officials, be prepared to testify. While you may remain anonymous, the case will be much stronger if you’re willing to identify yourself and testify to what you witnessed. A human witness is crucial for building a strong, prosecutable case. After all, animals cannot speak for themselves.
You can help
To report animal cruelty, call the Nassau County SPCA hotline at (516) 843-7722. To report an emergency or an animal that is about to be injured or killed, call 911.