NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Nassau County woman was arrested Wednesday after authorities said they found dozens of cats living in deplorable conditions in her home.
The homeowner, 59-year-old Valerie Varnuska, was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after authorities raided her Middle Camp Road home in Westbury, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said.
Inside the home, authorities found 24 neglected felines in filth and garbage, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
Neighbors said they could no longer stand the odors and hoarding of the cats so they called for help.
“This is not something that just happened,” neighbor Leonard Cobbs told McLogan.
“We feel sorry for her because we know it has to be a mental thing, and of course we feel sorry for the animals,” Cobb added.
She may have been well-intentioned but became a recluse, McLogan reported.
The cats were taken to the North Shore Animal League for bathing, shots and to be put up for adoption.
Lindsay Calabrese with the North Shore Animal League said the cats are pretty scared, skittish and some a little bit aggressive.
“They all have been well fed,” said Calabrese. “We’ve only examined a couple of them so we can’t really dwell into what medical issues some of them might have as of right now.”
The Town of North Hempstead Animal Control, the Village of Westbury, Animal Lovers League of Glen Cove and Posh Pets Rescue also partnered with the DA’s office in the case.
“This investigation has rescued two dozen defenseless animals from filthy, dangerous conditions unsuitable for any person or pet,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “I’m grateful to our partners in this joint operation, without whom we could not enforce the law and protect these animals.”
Rice’s office said the home did not have electricity and was cluttered with furniture and garbage bags. The home also had feces and urine on floors and walls, and a powerful stench that required responding officials to wear industrial breathing masks.
Investigators said they will work with Varnuska to get her the help she may need, and their goal was to save the pets, keep them alive and put them in loving homes, McLogan reported.
The house was deemed unfit for habitation and condemned by Village of Westbury officials. Authorities said humane traps were set up inside the home in case additional animals remained inside.
Following her arraignment Wednesday, Varnuska was conditionally released to probation and is due back in court on July 15.
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