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NYPD Investigating Claims That Industry City Exterminator Abused Stray Cats

By Caroline Spivack | September 29, 2017 7:38am
 Police are investigating animal abuse allegations at Industry City after an exterminator hired by the complex trapped a cat colony and released the felines into two Brooklyn parks.
Police are investigating animal abuse allegations at Industry City after an exterminator hired by the complex trapped a cat colony and released the felines into two Brooklyn parks.
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Flickr/Hehaden

SUNSET PARK — The NYPD animal cruelty investigation squad is looking into allegations of animal abuse at Industry City, police said Thursday. 

The probe comes after an exterminator hired by the Sunset Park complex abandoned a feral cat colony in two Brooklyn parks and left an opossum caged without food or water for roughly two days.

"An investigation is currently underway by the Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad," wrote an NYPD spokesman in an emailed statement. 

Industry City is fully cooperating with the investigation, said spokeswoman Lisa Serbaniewicz.

Management hired Squashed Exterminating to handle pest control for the network of buildings, and after a flea infestation was discovered in a handful of the property's basements, workers placed baited cages across the complex to trap the area's feral cat colony, according to Mac Weinles, manager of the Brownsville-based exterminator. 

Once caught, the roughly 20 cats were removed to Leif Ericson Park in Bay Ridge and Marine Park where they were left without shelter or provisions, which can be considered abandonment under cruelty to animals laws set by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Punishment can include a year in prison for a misdemeanor charge if prosecuted, or result in a fine of up to $1,000. 

Now the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program through the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, is working to retrap the cats and is spreading the word to its network of certified trap-neuter-return cat caretakers to enlist in the search. 

"The ideal outcome of this whole situation is that the cats will be brought back," said Kathleen O’Malley, director of trap-neuter-return education at the initiative. "Cats are very territorial and when they're not in their accustomed territory it puts them at risk for starvation and illness."

For more than a year, the initiative, Industry City and tenant Mariana Nuziale — who became a certified trap-neuter-return caretaker for the colony and has been working with Brooklyn Animal Action over the years to spay and neuter the felines — have been in conversation about the colony.

Last year, when management raised concerns about fleas, the initiative and Nuziale put oral flea medication in the cat's food to crack down on the issue, which makes it especially troubling that the exterminator claims the cats were removed due to a flea infestation, said O’Malley.

"If that's the case, that begs the questions why didn't Industry City go back to the caretakers and say, 'Can you take care of the problem?'" she said. "There are humane ways to deal with pretty much anything cats do — any kind of unwanted nuisance behavior."

Representatives with Industry City, Nuziale, O’Malley and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal are set to meet and discuss the situation on Friday. 

“We deeply regret any unintended harm to our feral cat community and will work with caretakers and New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal to find the cats and devise a long-term care plan," said Andrew Kimball, the CEO of Industry City.