Over 100 animals seized from North Bellmore home


North Bellmore resident was cited for 30 state and local violations relating to the illegal possession of over 100 animals last week, including a South American Ostrich, an endangered Tiger Salamander, a Giant African Snail, a North American opossum, two Prairie dogs, large monitor lizards and more.

Following a complaint by Humane Long Island, the leading animal advocacy group on Long Island, led by John Di Leonardo, the Nassau County SPCA led a multi-agency investigation of the resident who had 100 animals inside of his basement and backyard on Jan. 23. Federal, state and local authorities led by the SPCA’s director of law enforcement Matt Roper issued the man 30 violations relating to the illegal passion of animals.

Di Leonardo, who’s an anthrozoologist, told the Herald that the discovery was concerning, and said that there were animals being housed in both the home’s basement and backyard. Some of the animals confiscated could be rather dangerous, he added, including the South American Ostrich, which Is a name used to refer to what is actually a greater rhea. It is the largest bird species native to the Americas.

“They grow to be 4 to 5 feet tall, they have six-inch talons,” he said. “They run 20 miles and hour. This a very, very dangerous animal. They’re smaller but more aggressive than ostriches.”

Di Leonardo added that predators, such as species of reptiles, were being held in close proximity to prey, like quails.

“It’s cruel to both species — the predators who see their prey and can’t get to them, and then the prey who are perpetually terrified, waiting to be killed,” he said.

Di Leonardo said that Humane Long Island was made aware of the animals after they were tipped off about an exhibit at the Bellmore Family Street Festival, which took place last October. Humane Long Island previously shut down an animal exhibit at the same fair in September of 2019.

All of the animals seized are now under the care of Humane Long Island.

Di Leonardo emphasized that housing illegal animals is not fair to them, and rather cruel.

“I think a lot of it is, they’re trying to be the next Joe Exotic,” he said. “And I think that it’s important for people to realize that Joe Exotic is in prison for 20 years. He’s not a folk hero — he’s a bad guy. And if you want to follow his path, you’re just going to end up in jail as well.”

Humane Long Island works every day to remind the public that the term “adopt, don’t shop,” applies to all animals, and to never buy any animal from a pet store, at an auction or online.

“The illicit wildlife trade is one of the largest sources of criminal earnings, behind only arms smuggling and drug trafficking,” Di Leonardo said. But the animals pay the price. Hoarding giant birds, prairie dogs, and endangered species in a cramped basement or backyard shed is cruel, and keeping them in cages next to their natural predators can cause them extreme stress. Simply speaking, wild animals are not pets.”