A suffering menagerie of about 110 animals – ranging from tiny finches to tortoises, dogs, cats and a lizard – was removed from what authorities called filthy conditions at a home in the Town of Alden, and investigators from the SPCA may file animal cruelty charges against the owner.
The animals were confiscated Friday night and Saturday morning from the Henskee Road home of an ailing 70-year-old woman, officials from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office told The Buffalo News.
As of Saturday night, the homeowner’s name and specific address had not been released. The animals, most of them small birds, were being washed, assigned identification numbers and treated by veterinarians at the SPCA Serving Erie County shelter in the Town of Tonawanda.
“We’re not releasing her name yet because no charges have been filed yet,” said SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning. “I believe that some charges will be filed, but this is an ongoing investigation. ... The conditions where these animals were found were absolutely filthy. We have no idea how long ago these cages were last cleaned. There were spiderwebs and feces everywhere.”
“This is not like putting dogs into dog fights, or setting an animal on fire, but under New York state law, hoarding animals under filthy and unhealthy conditions is also a form of animal cruelty,” Browning added.
Sheriff’s deputies alerted the SPCA to the situation after responding to a first aid call at the home Friday night, said Lt. Joseph Belden, a watch commander for the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies and Alden volunteer firefighters found the woman, who lives at the home on Henskee near Exchange Street, having difficulty breathing and unable to communicate clearly, Belden said. The woman was taken for medical treatment.
“It didn’t take long to determine that conditions in the home were deplorable and that more attention was needed for these animals,” Belden said.
The house was determined to be uninhabitable and it was condemned Friday night by an inspector from the Town of Alden, Belden said.
While the SPCA often investigates several cases of animal hoarding each month in Erie County, this case was unusual because of the filth in the home and the variety of animals the woman kept, Browning said.
Among the creatures recovered were finches, rosellas, parrotlets, cockatiels, Bourke’s parakeets, standard parakeets, parrots including African greys, Amazon and Senegal, and ringneck and diamond doves. Authorities also took away six cats, five dogs, four tortoises and a skink, which is a lizard.
Acting on the call from police, SPCA officers arrived at about 8:30 p.m. and found the animals in varying degrees of health. As of Saturday night, none of the animals had died, but some are in much worse condition than others, Browning said.
The SPCA has been busy in recent days. Six horses were rescued from unhealthy conditions at a home in Newstead, the agency said.
“In addition to the six horses rescued Thursday from a Newstead property, the SPCA once again finds itself providing care for more than 100 animals of several species at the same time,” said Executive Director Barbara Carr.
“Many of these animals are need of extreme veterinary care. Those medical costs, combined with the general costs of housing and caring for so many animals at once, create another emergency financial need of sorts. We are once again turning to the community asking for their donations, allowing us to give these animals the care of which they are so desperately in need.”
Charges are also being considered for the owner of the horses in Newstead, the SPCA said.
Belden said Saturday night that he was not aware where the 70-year-old Alden woman was staying, but he said Erie County adult protective services workers are assisting her.
“Her house is condemned. She can’t go back there,” Belden said.