Groups Alter Tactics With Rise in Abandoned Pets
By AIMÉE HARRIS
Published: October 14, 2007
THE number of illegal pets and abandoned animals on Long Island has increased so much in recent years that animal groups are adjusting how they respond.
Recent cases of abandoned animals have gone beyond cats and dogs. They have included a box of young rabbits left at the Massapequa train station last month and a 3 ½-foot alligator found in Wading River.
The Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group was founded about a year ago to address the problem of domestic rabbits — which cannot survive on their own — abandoned and running loose on Long Island. The group has about three dozen rabbits in foster care, including a dozen from the train station.
The alligator, which was found by two boys last month, was the 15th one that the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had handled within the past year. It is illegal to own alligators in New York.
But the society is handling cases of many other types of exotic animals, and the number has tripled over the past few years, said Roy Gross, the Suffolk County group’s chief executive director. He said that in the past year the society had dealt with 112 exotic animals, including electric eels and an ornate golden baboon spider. The spider, Mr. Gross said, had half-inch fangs and could jump three feet.
The society has adjusted its training of volunteers to include classes on recognizing and recovering dangerous reptiles and other nontraditional pets.
The additional training is affecting the bottom line of the nonprofit agency, which is operating in the red, Mr. Gross said. The county societies run on donations and a small fraction of the fees generated from dog licenses. For the Suffolk County group, Mr. Gross said, the license fees generate about $19,000 a year. Its annual budget is $200,000.
The Nassau County society also offers training in handling exotic animals but has not had as many incidents as Suffolk, said James M. Dunn, its assistant chief.
What Nassau County does have too many of is abandoned domestic rabbits, a different species from the cottontail rabbits native to this region. High numbers of domestic rabbits have been found in Massapequa, Seaford and along the Seaford-Wantagh border, said Mary Ann Maier, an educator for the House Rabbit Society, who helped found Long Island Rabbit Rescue.
Domestic rabbits are susceptible to parasites and can be killed by predators or the elements. “Domestic rabbits don’t do very well in the wild,” Mr. Dunn said, “and it’s a painful, slow death.”
The Long Island rabbit group grew out of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, the New York City chapter of the House Rabbit Society, after rabbits were breeding in large numbers at a Massapequa home and then escaping and being killed by vehicles.
Together, the city and the Long Island groups receive daily reports of domestic rabbits in need, Ms. Maier said, adding that there have been sightings at every park on Long Island.
The Long Island Rabbit Rescue, which also educates owners about rabbits, spent a large portion of the summer rounding up domestic rabbits at the Massapequa Preserve. Mr. Dunn estimated that 50 to 100 rabbits had been dumped there in the past year.
“Even in a seemingly manicured park, the rabbits will still perish really quickly,” Ms. Maier said. “It’s inhumane.”
Early last month, a volunteer for Long Island Rabbit Rescue was near the Massapequa train station and found a box of bunnies — some too young to be weaned — that had been abandoned. About 15 rabbits were rescued, but two died right away.
An investigation is continuing, Mr. Dunn said, and the Long Island Rabbit Rescue is offering a $5,000 reward for a tip that leads to an arrest. In New York, abandoning an animal is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Animal groups urge pet owners who are overburdened to contact the agencies. If the pet is illegal, they say, it should be turned in. An owner who turns in an illegal pet faces only a violation and a fine, Mr. Gross said, but an owner who abandons an illegal pet may face criminal charges.
“I can’t stress enough that it’s not fair to the animal,” Mr. Gross said, “it’s not fair to the public, and it’s not safe.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
“Can’t stress enough”: This means that the importance of something can’t be explained
Teachers can’t stress enough how important it is for students to study for tests.
Eating healthy foods and exercising everyday in order to stay physically fit can’t be stressed enough by doctors.
“Turn in”: This means to give something to the authorities.
Students must turn in their assignments by Friday to the teacher.
Tom was turned in to the authorities by his mother when she found out that he was on drugs.
True or False: