Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flushing neighbors angry over so many dogs

by Liz Rhoades, Queens Cronicle

Neighbors call a Flushing house the “black hole of Calcutta” and when the dogs get loose, it’s like a scene out of a horror movie. That’s how Rick Maiman and other residents describe a house at 150-08 33rd Ave., where the owner, Robert Vedral, allegedly keeps 30 dogs. “I’m an advocate for the dogs,” Maiman said. “It’s wrong they are cooped up like that; it’s abuse.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Community Board 7 district service cabinet meeting last week, Maiman told city agency representatives the problem has existed for about four years as Vedral’s dogs have increased, either through rescues or inbreeding.

He complained of constant barking, a vile stench from the property and two instances when the mixed beagles have escaped and ran rampant through the neighborhood. “The poor animals have no collars and are kept in the basement. That’s maltreatment,” Maiman said. “He shows no compassion to his neighbors.”

The city’s Emergency Services Unit had to be called to help corral the dogs, who were stopping traffic and making a lot of noise. Some nearby residents, including Maiman, helped “Believe me, it was no cute scene out of ‘101 Dalmations,’ it was a horror,” he said.

Another neighbor, contacted after the meeting, supported Maiman’s claims, but did not want her name used. She said Vedral was a very kind man, but that he has turned a blind eye when it came to the dogs. “He’s a nice guy except he doesn’t want to hear about the dogs,” she said.

The neighbor indicated Vedral has one large dog that he walks, but the others are kept in the house. She has lived in the neighborhood 44 years and said Vedral inherited the house from his parents. “It’s sad when the animals become such an obsession,” the neighbor said.

Vedral was described as a single man in his mid-50s, who works as a photographer for the Yankees and has lived in the house all his life.

Neighbors say when they returned the escaped dogs, the Vedral kitchen looked squalid. “I wonder what the basement looks like,” Maiman said.

C.B. 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman took city agencies to task for not following up on the situation, which was reported more than a year ago. A spokeswoman from the mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, Claudia Filomena, said ASPCA workers were denied access to the house several times, but it is believed they never sought a warrant.

Linda Dean, a representative from the Department of Environmental Protection, said her agency is trying to do a site inspection. But Bitterman told her that it had already been done and there had also been no cooperation from the Department of Health.

DEP is involved because it handles noise pollution complaints. Bitterman suggests visits be made in the morning before the dogs are fed, when they bark constantly.

Filomena agreed to check with the ASPCA to find out steps to get a warrant to enter the house.

Repeated attempts to reach Vedral for comments were unsuccessful.

Regina Massaro, an expert on dog hoarding and founder of SNIP, a Maspeth-based group that takes junkyard and feral dogs and cats to get spayed and neutered, believes the ASPCA dropped the ball on this case. “The owner has to prove the dogs are vaccinated,” Massaro said. “If they are not, the health department can get in there. They will get a warrant.”

She advised neighbors that if the dogs escape again, and have no identification, not to return them to Vedral. “Call me or rescue them yourselves,” Massaro said. Her number is (917) 658-4524.

On Tuesday, Massaro visited Vedral. Although he refused her entry into his house, he did bring out one of the dogs. “Based on what I saw and smelled, I have contacted the ASPCA. It is my belief the living conditions are inhumane,” she said..." More