Claws Come Out In Cat Closure

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*Editor’s Note: Supervisor John Venditto’s spokesperson sent a statement via email to the Massapequa Observer’s editor after the story was posted to this website. The statement and background info has been added to the story below.

A Massapequa-based organization aiming to spay/neuter feral cats and facilitate pet adoptions had its services snipped recently after town officials forced it to cease operations citing code violations.

But volunteers at All About Spay Neuter Inc. said those violations were not properly communicated and the storefront shutdown is an injustice to the town it serves.

“I’m fighting politics and it’s disgusting,” said Massapequan Joanne Monez, director of All About Spay Neuter Inc., a nonprofit cat shelter on Merrick Road. “We spoke to officials and were on track to complying with the code. Then they came in and shut us down without warning.”

Monez said a town code enforcement officer entered the facility on July 17 and issued the nonprofit a notice to immediately cease occupancy, citing a strong odor and complaints from a neighboring storefront, Reliance Healthcare Staffing, which did not return a request for comment as of press time. The town also cited the cat shelter with “not having the proper use permit, construction or making alterations with a permit and creating nuisances.”

10453307_344085542422670_3640163777480382686_n[2]In an emailed statement, Supervisor John Venditto said:

“As always, the Town of Oyster Bay is looking to attain full compliance for code violations first and foremost, in an effort to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents and all involved.

“This establishment had been in violation of Town code now for about four months, and despite the best efforts of the Town’s Planning and Development Department, compliance for numerous issues could not be reached in a timely manner.  As a result, occupants of adjoining tenancies became ill from the odors being emitted at this location.  At the time of the Town’s most recent inspection, there were over 80 cats and kittens in only 20 cages at this establishment, all of which were removed overnight by the owners.

“The Town is pleased that the owners are moving forward toward achieving compliance, they have removed the cats from the premises, they have sanitized the building, and they have retained counsel, who has been in communication with the Town’s Commissioner of Department of Planning and Development. We will continue to work with the proprietors to resolve any and all outstanding issues, and bring the establishment up to code.”

Residents from across Long Island are voicing their outrage about the closure on the shelter’s Facebook page. The Massapequa Observer has fielded close to 10 phone calls this afternoon alone, all from residents calling for Venditto and the Town of Oyster Bay to rectify the situation.

Leave your comment on the Massapequa Observer Facebook page in support or against All About Spay Neuter Inc.

“The shelter provides a fantastic asset to the community,” said Joan Chairello of Hicksville. “Joanne Monez is a professional in this business. She would never ignore any accusation of violations. Who else is going to do what she does for no pay?”

“I’ve had many feral cats in my neighborhood, and the Town of Oyster Bay was always too busy to take care of it,” said Denise Watson, also of Hicksville. “I’ve been in that store and it is spotless. I do not believe that the complaint of odor from the business next door is warranted.”

“The shelter has been there for almost a year and it is very clean. It is not the visual of a crazy cat lady, hoarding cats. The place is spotless,” said Massapequa resident Catherine B. “I think the Supervisor needs to be a gentleman and see what he can do to help. It’s disappointing for the community, because Joanne was out there helping to control the feral cat population. The Town wasn’t doing it.”

“It’s terrible seeing animals starving. My husband and I found four kittens starving on the Jones Beach boardwalk. We called the Town and called shelters and no one could help. Finally we called Joanne and she trapped the cats the next day,” said Diane Silverberg of Levittown. “When we had nowhere else to turn, she was more than willing to help.”

“I don’t think Joanne was given fair notice to correct whatever violations the Town claims she had,” said Allison D’Andrea of St. James. “All About Spay Neuter does an invaluable service for the Town at no cost.”

“Years ago I had many feral cats in my yard, I called Joanne for help and she came and showed me how to trap, out of the goodness in her heart,” said Carol Stumpf of Syosset. “Those cats were spayed, neutered and release back to my neighborhood and that colony has not grown since. Supervisor Venditto started the TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program and I think very highly of him for doing that. But this is upsetting. I hope he contacts Joanne and finds a way to help her because her service is invaluable.”

“I got involved with Joanne eight years ago. I had a mother cat and her two kittens on my property. I started feeding them, then said I’m perpetuating the problem by doing this. I called Joanne, she came out, trapped them, neutered and vaccinated them, then returned them to me for only a small donation. Eight years later, it’s still only those three cats on my property instead of 300 or 600,” said Rosalie Weston of Seaford. “I can’t say enough about Joanne. It’s upsetting that she is not getting any answers from the Town. She was willing to comply with the code, but then all of a sudden they brought in the police and shut her down. All because of one complaint? It doesn’t make sense.”

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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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