Up to 30 cats were found living amid trash inside a Garden City home that was condemned Monday, officials said.
Despite the 90-degree weather, all the windows were closed in Thane Matthews' Garden Street house, according to the complaint against him. Three cats were in cages without any food or water, investigators said, and the available fresh and clean food and water was not enough for all the cats.
"As soon as I got out of the car, I smelled it," said Gary Rogers, head of the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "When we were ventilating the house, there were cats sitting at the windows, enjoying the fresh air."
Matthews, 62, was arraigned on six misdemeanor counts of animal abuse and released on his own recognizance. He could not be reached Monday and it was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
The Nassau District attorney's office, which got a complaint about Matthews, and the SPCA searched the house but had to leave temporarily because ammonia levels were so high that they triggered the alarm on a gas detector, signaling toxic or dangerous levels, authorities said. The Garden City Fire Department and Nassau County fire marshal's office ventilated the house with fans, and investigators put on protective suits before going back in.
Six cats were taken to a veterinarian to be evaluated, while traps were put out for the others, Rogers said. Hempstead Town workers will go in at least twice a day to check on the traps, he said.
Garden City condemned the house, which means Matthews will have to correct the problems before being allowed back in, authorities said. Officials were to board the first-floor windows and doors to prevent anyone from going in, but the upper floor windows will remain open so fresh air is available for the cats, Rogers said.
Matthews surrendered his animals to the Hempstead Town animal shelter, officials said.
He had lived there all his life and told authorities that the cats had wandered onto his property, Rogers said. "He thought they were strays and he apparently invited them to live in his house," Rogers said.