More than 400 animals living in “horrible” conditions were seized Tuesday from a Bellmore home, 10 months after authorities removed an alligator and gave the owner time to clean up his house, according to Nassau prosecutors and the SPCA.
During the eight-hour rescue, dubbed “Operation Noah’s Ark” by authorities, the crew inside the Ocean Avenue home was limited to five people at a time because the house was crammed with feces-filled bird cages, turtles in slimy water and even a free-roaming skunk, said Gary Rogers, head of the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Owner Gary Gruber was cited Tuesday by state environmental officials for possessing endangered turtles, authorities said.
Prosecutors are mulling charges because the animals lived in dirty and unhealthy conditions, officials said. “You have to wear a mask and you have to keep going out because of the smell,” Rogers said.
Authorities took 251 birds, including African greys and sparrows; 151 turtles; four reptiles and 12 mammals, including rabbits and a chinchilla, said officials from the SPCA and the Nassau district attorney’s office, which had obtained the seizure warrant.
Gruber was allowed to keep his six cats and some dogs.
The SPCA first visited the house in December 2014 after getting a complaint from one neighbor about the bird noise.
In a raid last August, authorities allowed Gruber to keep most of the animals but ordered him to hire a cleaning service. Only a 4-foot alligator was seized because he had no license to own it.
Over the months, SPCA inspections showed Gruber was making headway, Rogers said, but in April, conditions worsened and the agency contacted prosecutors.
Gruber’s attorney, Nathan DeCorpo of Lynbrook, said many of the animals are healthy and his client may want at least some back. He had hired people to help care for the animals but ran into problems when his own health deteriorated, the attorney said.
DeCorpo said people bring unwanted animals to Gruber and his family for rehabilitation. “He certainly was doing the best that he could to care for the animals,” the attorney said. “He does love all these animals, and he’s absolutely heartbroken that they’ve seized them.”
Rogers said all the birds and turtles have been taken to rescue sanctuaries off Long Island.