Queens County Animal Hoarder Convicted of 108 Counts of Animal Cruelty

Posted on June 7, 2018

Animal Legal Defense Fund Senior Staff Attorney Diane Balkin and Assistant District Attorney Nicoletta J. Caferri, Chief of the Queens County Animal Cruelty Prosecutions Unit

Animal Legal Defense Fund Senior Staff Attorney Diane Balkin and Assistant District Attorney Nicoletta J. Caferri, Chief of the Queens County Animal Cruelty Prosecutions Unit

 

A smell of ammonia so intense that rescuers had to wear respirators and protective clothing. Animals with crusted eyes and fur. Floors coated in feces and urine.

This was the scene New York City police officers discovered in a Queens home two years ago. The total number of animals found living in the modest, single-family attached house? 55 cats, 12 dogs, and 2 turtles. The house was swarming with flies, and fly excrement was speckled across all hard surfaces including the walls and lamps. Additionally, the furniture, including beds, was covered in feces and urine.

Officers came upon the chaotic scene in January 2016 while visiting the home for unrelated reasons. Ultimately 12 of the animals were so ill that they had to be euthanized, including Dorothy, a dog who suffered from kidney and liver disease. A forensic veterinarian who examined the animals determined their health was compromised due to the extremely filthy conditions; some of the animals’ health was severely compromised. A number of animals had severe dental disease, and many cats suffered from contagious and chronic ear mites.

Assistant District Attorney Nicoletta J. Caferri, Chief of the Queens County Animal Cruelty Prosecutions Unit, was assigned to prosecute the person responsible for mistreating Dorothy and the other 68 animals who had been neglected. Caferri reached out to Lora Dunn, the director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program, for assistance and our team of criminal experts sprung into action.

Senior Staff Attorney Diane Balkin, with 32 years of experience as a prosecutor in the Denver District Attorney’s Office, led the Animal Legal Defense Fund team. Balkin has a wide breadth of knowledge and experience prosecuting all types of felonies including animal cruelty. Today she is one of our attorneys using her experience to provide expert support to prosecutors dealing with animal cruelty cases across the country.

On a national level, animal cruelty crimes like this are unfortunately under-investigated and under-prosecuted due to limited resources. Even the toughest anti-cruelty laws are useless if law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices are unable to prosecute crimes against animals. That’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund offers free legal assistance to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to ensure that crimes against animals are investigated and abusers are held accountable.

In the Queens hoarding case, Diane worked closely with ADA Caferri. Thanks to their diligent efforts, in March 2018, the woman was found guilty of 108 counts of animal cruelty, failure to provide proper sustenance, and failure to provide proper food and drink to an impounded animal. At sentencing, she will face a maximum penalty of up to two years in jail in addition to being prohibited from possessing animals in the future.

Without your generous support we would not be able to ensure justice was served and the person responsible for Dorothy’s suffering may not have faced punishment. The Animal Legal Defense Fund consults and assists on roughly 100 animal cruelty cases a year. Thank you for helping us defend animals in every state. To learn more, go to aldf.org/cruelty.

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund gave me the invaluable guidance I was hoping for to be able to take this important case to trial. Diane Balkin’s practical trial skills and experience as a prosecutor are extremely deep and rich.”  – Assistant District Attorney Nicoletta J. Caferri


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