It was a scene to rival Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” as authorities clad in hazmat suits descended Thursday morning on a home in North Merrick, where an estimated 350 pigeons were discovered, uncaged and in free flight, inside the house.
Nassau County SCPA spokesman Gary Rogers said the homeowner, identified only as a 68-year-old man, had been taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for evaluation. An SPCA detective also was hospitalized after, Rogers said, that detective stepped on a piece of plywood outside the home — and fell into a basement area below it, suffering head lacerations.
Authorities had come to the home on Abbott Avenue to execute a search warrant after neighbors complained about the property to the Town of Hempstead building department, Rogers said. What authorities found on arrival was a home where hundreds of pigeons flew, uncaged and, Rogers said, where “two feet of bird droppings and seeds” covered the floors.
“Everything’s covered,” Rogers said. “We’re working in suits and respirators just to get into the house.”
Rogers said the home had no running water. He said the refrigerator was not accessible. “The situation is unsafe,” Rogers said, noting: “This has been going on for a long time.”
After being contacted by the town building department, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office Animal Crimes Unit was able to prepare a search warrant, Rogers said.
At the scene Thursday, along with the SPCA, were police and firefighters, building department inspectors and workers from the Department of Social Services. Rogers said the health department also was notified and a determination would be made on whether the house would be condemned.
He said workers had found free-flying birds, as well as baby pigeons, nests and bird remains.
Rogers said the condition of the birds would be assessed and then the SPCA would attempt to place them with caretakers who raise and care for pigeons. He said the birds would not be released into the wild.
Since June, Rogers said, the Nassau SPCA has rescued more than 850 animals from similar situations.
These include reptiles, such as alligators, exotic birds and dogs. That number does not include programs to rescue feral cats, Rogers said.
“These animals need help and they can’t call themselves,” Rogers said, noting that residents in such situations often are not able to — or, are unwilling to — contact authorities to seek assistance. The bottom line, Rogers said, is that “these situations exist and someone has to be aware they’re going on . . . This is your neighbor, your neighborhood, and these are people and animals who need help. All it takes is a phone call.”
To that end, the SPCA asks that if you see similar situations of people hoarding animals or if you see animals being kept in unhealthy or dangerous situations, you should call to report animal cruelty at 911 and request immediate police response or call to report the situation at 516-THE-SPCA.