MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that 24 cats in various states of poor health were rescued from a home in Westbury today, with the structure condemned and the owner of the cats now facing animal cruelty charges in the ongoing investigation.
DA Rice’s office spent months reviewing tips made to her Animal Crimes Unit, trying to find a non-criminal resolution to the case in order to protect the animals. After a non-criminal resolution was determined not to be possible, DA investigators along with Village and Town officials and local animal shelters executed a search warrant this morning and arrested the resident, 59-year-old Valerie Varnuska, charging her with misdemeanor animal cruelty under Section 353 of New York State’s Agriculture and Markets Law. Varnuska, appearing before Judge Andrea Phoenix in Nassau County District Court today, was conditionally released to probation and is due back in court on July 15.
The rescued cats are in the custody of the North Shore Animal League, which is performing physical and behavioral evaluations. The Town of North Hempstead Animal Control, the Village of Westbury, Animal Lovers League of Glen Cove and Posh Pets Rescue have also partnered with DA Rice’s office in this case.
“This investigation has rescued two dozen defenseless animals from filthy, dangerous conditions unsuitable for any person or pet,” DA Rice said. “I’m grateful to our partners in this joint operation, without whom we could not enforce the law and protect these animals.”
The house was deemed unfit for habitation and condemned by Village of Westbury officials, and humane traps were left in the home in case additional animals remain inside.
The rescued cats were in various states of poor physical condition, including many with very poor dental and jaw health, including abscessed teeth.
The home was found with no electricity and significantly unsanitary and cluttered living conditions, including furniture and garbage bags strewn throughout, feces and urine on floors and walls, and a powerful stench that required responding officials to wear industrial breathing masks.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Libroia of DA Rice’s Animal Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case. Varnuska is represented by Jennifer Mazzei, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.