Forty-five dogs living in cages and filth were seized Thursday from what neighbors called a rat- and flea-infested East Meadow home that held the residents “hostage” for years.
The overpowering ammonia smell from urine forced rescuers from the Nassau SPCA and other agencies to don hazmat suits and masks as they removed dogs from cages or running loose at the Powers Avenue home. The operation, set in motion about noon by the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, came to a halt in the early evening as workers waited for more equipment to come in, including a mobile shower so workers could wash off to prevent the spread of disease.
“People who have been doing this for a long time — we can’t believe the conditions,” said Gary Rogers, head of the Nassau SPCA.
“It was so bad and so cluttered with debris that we had to use an infrared camera to find the animals,” he said.
The dogs were covered in feces, had overgrown nails and one dog carried out had almost lost his entire coat, he said, but it was another canine that stuck in Rogers’ mind.“I can’t determine the color because of the feces covering it and the odor coming from it,” he said.
Nassau police said a woman, 65, who lives at the home, was taken to Nassau University Medical Center to be evaluated.
For years, the smell of “decay” and the infestation spreading out from the house prevented nearby residents from enjoying their yards, neighbors said.
Christina Ingrassia, 30, who lives and grew up next door, said she and her father have called town and county officials over the decades about the woman, a breeder, whose dogs and even puppies were always matted and sickly.
She would rake dog feces to her fence line instead of dumping it in the trash, scream curses at her dogs and take them out for just a few minutes in the yard, the neighbor said.
Ingrassia said she sees rats burrowing under her deck and fleas clinging to her legs and her 2-year-old daughter’s legs when they put out the trash.
“I don’t go outside — I’m afraid to,” Ingrassia said.
Two houses down, Howard Siegel said he does not let his animals out due to the fleas, ticks and rodents.
“It’s been years and years feeling like a hostage to this house,” he said about the breeder.
Hempstead Town and Nassau County health officials, reached after hours, said they did not have any details about complaints or whether they took any action. Rogers said a complaint Wednesday was the first his agency had received.
Hempstead Town officials posted a note on the house saying it was “unfit and unsafe” for human occupancy.
Rogers said the dogs were being taken to the Hempstead Town animal shelter, where they will be evaluated before being put up for adoption.