Animal welfare volunteers wearing protective clothing and masks rescued 100 cats and three ferrets living in deplorable conditions in a Glen Cove apartment, police said Thursday.
Betty Bjorkman, 56, the owner of the animals, was charged with 103 counts of animal cruelty-misdemeanor charges.
Her attorney, Kenneth Beal of Uniondale, said she is innocent of the charges. "She was an animal lover," he said. "She cared for them. She always had the utmost respect for the animals and treated them properly."
Bjorkman was living alone with her animals for about two years in a second-floor, two-bedroom apartment, in a legal two-family house on Elm Avenue, police said.
Glen Cove Det. Joe Graziosi said the apartment was not a fit place for animals or humans to live. "It needs to be condemned, gutted and started anew," Graziosi said. "Deplorable is the best word I can come up with."
The owner of the building, who lives on the first floor, Graziosi said, began eviction proceedings against Bjorkman for failure to pay rent and because of the odor emanating from her apartment. The owner knew she had animals, Graziosi said, but not how many, until last week when Glen Cove police and animal advocate volunteers first entered the apartment to check on the welfare of the animals.
"We had one like this about 15 years ago, and it was dogs," Graziosi said. "But this is the worst I've ever seen in 20 years as a police officer. I've never seen anything this bad."
The Animal Lovers League of Glen Cove has possession of the animals, which will undergo health checks, and then be put up for adoption, Graziosi said.
Bjorkman is to appear in Glen Cove City Court to answer the misdemeanor charges on April 19, police said.