Town: N. Massapequa home with bobcat, wild animals must be cleared out

Cathy and Bobby Horvath of North Massapequa have spent their lives caring for and rehabilitating animals. However the Town of Oyster Bay, saying it has received numerous complaints, says the family has to remove the animals until they can find another place to live. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (April 9, 2013)

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Oyster Bay officials are cracking down on a North Massapequa menagerie of wild animals with hawks, turkeys and a bobcat named Tasha, deeming it dangerous and saying it must be cleared out.

But the regionally renowned rehabilitators who run the operation have seen a groundswell of support from animal lovers that includes an online petition with more than 1,300 signatures as of Wednesday night.

Bobby and Cathy Horvath said the town's order will force them to relocate their nonprofit Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation from Oyster Bay. "This is our life and our passion, and we're not stopping," said Cathy Horvath, 53, a vet technician.

Tasha and the wild winged things violate town code, in part because they are being harbored at a residence, officials said. The Horvaths must comply or face a summons and fine.

The Horvaths said they have several federal and state permits for their work. They have been rehabbing animals at their North Wyoming Avenue home for years without issue, Cathy Horvath said.

She and Bobby Horvath, 50, a New York City firefighter, pay for most of the care themselves, but have some donors.

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"It's mind-boggling why it's happening now," she said. "Police departments, animal shelters, the towns, animal control in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. They all bring animals to us. We're providing a free service to these agencies."

She said that, ironically, Oyster Bay's shelter was calling her about taking in a swan even as the town code inspector sat writing the violation ticket.

The Horvaths' neighbors complained to the town about the property being dirty and smelly, Oyster Bay spokeswoman Marta Kane said. The family was originally given until next week to move the animals from their 6,000-square-foot property, but town officials said they're working with the Horvaths on a flexible timeline for compliance.

Supervisor John Venditto said he supports the Horvaths' cause as an animal lover, but, "If you're a neighbor with a 2-year-old child, you wouldn't be comfortable having a bobcat within striking distance."

Kane said the town code inspector, responding last week to the complaints, found nine hawks, two turkeys, four chickens and a bobcat.

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Cathy Horvath this week said she has seven hawks, two turkeys and a bobcat.

The birds were being rehabbed and were to be released soon, she said. The bobcat is caged and declawed, she said, adding that Tasha was rescued from a fur farm and has been with the family for 20 years.

She is also caring for owls, quail, pigeons, an opossum and a fox.

The Horvaths have permits for falconry, education and endangered species, she said.

The organization had several messages of support on its Facebook page. On the petition, one backer wrote, "Please quit bullying rehabbers."

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The Horvaths had a similar violation in 2002 but complied by 2003, Kane said.

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