SPCA offers reward for info on cat traps


The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who set illegal animal traps around Baldwin that injured at least two cats, one severely.

The organization, which is investigating the case, can be reached at (516) 843-7722.

In early May, Baldwinite Ursala Lipitz discovered the traps around the paws of stray cats that she feeds in her backyard. The first cat allowed Lipitz to remove the device, but a second one, spotted on May 8 did not let anyone come close enough to take it off. The cat walked around Baldwin for close to two weeks with the trap on its foot, running away whenever someone got close to it.

On May 21, animal activists managed to capture the cat, named Blackie, and take it to a veterinarian for treatment. John Debacker, a volunteer cat trapper who had tried to rescue the injured animal, said he felt relieved. “It’s an absolutely great feeling,” he said.

Baldwinite Heather Mancuso, another volunteer, said she was worried Blackie would never be found, or had died of its injuries. “I thought it was maybe too late for him,” said Mancuso, who had searched for days for the animal. She said she spotted the cat near her New York Avenue garage when she went to search surveillance footage for clues of where it might be.

“It was kind of surreal,” she said. “I heard a noise behind me, I turned around, and I saw him jump out of the attic of the garage.” Mancuso said she called Debacker and another person searching for the cat, which had run underneath cars on New York Avenue. “We were so happy,” Mancuso said. “We knew he was still alive and we had a chance to get him.”

Several Baldwinites blocked the cars with large boxes and objects, in the hope of luring the cat into a net, but Blackie outmaneuvered them a few times before the animal was caught. “If we weren’t in such shock, we would have been crying,” Mancuso said. “There’s no feeling better than knowing he could get help.” Debacker called the rescue a community effort. “It took a lot of the block,” he said, “but we made it happen.”

Blackie was brought to Westbury Veterinary Clinic, where it is still being held for treatment, to have the trap removed. Debacker said amputation of the paw, which was injured by the trap, was considered but deemed unnecessary by the veterinarians. “That’s great to hear,” he said. “It will probably still need a couple of days of rehab to get the paw back to full functionality.”

Debacker and Mancuso said the veterinarian would determine whether Blackie should be released back into the streets, or brought to a shelter, once it heals fully. Meanwhile, the two animal activists said they hope someone will come forward with information about who laid the traps and why.

At least four more of the devices, which are coil-spring traps activated when an animal steps inside them, were found in Baldwin in recent weeks, including one that had the decomposed corpse of what appeared to be a raccoon still inside it. The discovery of the traps sparked outrage among Baldwin pet owners and Nassau animal lovers.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation must license trappers before they can lay traps, and any traps placed must have the owner’s name and license number on them. None of those found in Baldwin had that information. Even if someone with a license placed the traps, it would not matter, because state permits do not allow the trapping of cats or dogs.

Trapping raccoons requires a license, according to the DEC; however, the law allows unlicensed homeowners to kill them if the animal has damaged property. The department, though, recommends taking alternative measures before trying to kill raccoons. Furthermore, the DEC states, trapped raccoons must be removed from the devices once caught.

The placement of the traps also appears to be illegal. According to the DEC, they cannot be placed within 100 feet of a public road. Debacker said the traps have been found in bushes near Baldwin streets, mostly around New York Avenue, prompting area pet owners to worry about the safety of their dogs and cats.