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DA: 24 Cats Rescued from Westbury Home

Valerie Varnuska, 59, is charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.

One of the cats found in the home of Valerie Varnuska. Credit: Nassau County District Attorney's Office
One of the cats found in the home of Valerie Varnuska. Credit: Nassau County District Attorney's Office

A Westbury woman is facing animal cruelty charges after 24 cats in various states of poor health were rescued from her home, authorities said. 

Investigators from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office, along with village and town officials as well as local animal shelters executed a search warrant Wednesday morning. That’s when Valerie Varnuska, 59, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty under Section 353 of New  York State’s Agriculture and Markets Law.

Varnuska was released to probation and is due back in court July 15, the DA’s office said.

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 Rice’s office in this case.

The DA’s Animal Crimes Unit spent months reviewing tips trying to find a non-criminal resolution to the case in order to protect the animals, according to a news release issued Wednesday afternoon. But when a non-criminal resolution was determined impossible, authorities executed the search warrant.

“This investigation has rescued two dozen defenseless animals from filthy, dangerous conditions unsuitable for any person or pet,” 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 had 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,” according to the news release.

cynthia kouril May 15, 2014 at 08:34 AM
Look, I'm against animal cruelty as much as anyone, but there is a heroin epidemic in NY and the idea of wasting resources on an animal unit to gin up a bunch of misdemeanor cases, is insane. Our children are at risk of dying from overdoses, but, hey, let's spend lots of time on misdemeanors.
Mickey May 15, 2014 at 10:03 AM
I am 100% for helping ANIMALS- creatures who cannot help themselves or can find treatment and safety on their own! The have no family, no school, NO ONE looking after them or caring for them. They are totally helpless and did NOT put themselves into that condition! Drug addicts can find help... plenty of places they can get to for help. Our 'children' have PEOPLE around to spot the addiction and lead them to numerous options for help. Who is there for defenseless animals who cannot do anything to help themselves. Minimal resources are used to rescue these abused animals...thanks to non-profit organizations who volunteer their time and money to look after these suffering innocent animals.
Matt Markell May 15, 2014 at 07:14 PM
Elizabeth, I completely agree with your thoughts but the reality is, she was not thinking. At least I hope so. Animals are our friends, their devotion and love make our lives a better place. It's unfortunate that some take that for granted. Will she learn from this? Probably not! Can we decrease their number? I certainly hope so.
Matt Markell May 15, 2014 at 07:24 PM
Cynthia, I agree, there unquestionably is a drug problem but this is a discussion about animal cruelty,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,focus!
Sal Anthony May 16, 2014 at 11:40 AM
It's racism she hates dogs

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