Schenectady pet rescue irritates neighbors with annoying smell – The Daily Gazette


SCHENECTADY — Residents of the city’s Goose Hill neighborhood are furious with a local cat adoption service they say is holding their noses up.

“The smell is killing me,” said Latchman Haripersaud, who lives next door. “I can’t even barbecue.”

Haripersaud collected signatures from 12 homes along Lenox Road and submitted the petition last week to City Council, imploring lawmakers to take action.

He led a reporter into his garden, where a strong smell of ammonia was evident moments after a torrential downpour.

Previous attempts to remedy the situation with Voice for the Voiceless, which markets itself as a pet adoption service, have failed, he said.

Haripersaud bought his house in late 2017 and said he didn’t notice the smell until the following spring.

Voice for the Voiceless has obtained legal 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS. The shelter has also registered with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees pet rescue operations.

But designations are not enough to comply with municipal ordinances.

NOTICE ISSUED

City zoning officer Avi Epstein issued a subpoena to building owner Camille Qualtere after what he documented as repeated requests for the shelter to cease operations at the site, located at 1769 Lenox Rd.

The property is zoned R-1 single-family residential, a designation that prohibits the operation of a non-profit entity, as well as other businesses, including nursing homes, beauty salons, restaurants, nursing and funeral homes.

Epstein posted a notice of the property on July 12 and sent a copy to Qualtere the same day.

Voice for the Voiceless has been ordered to comply by July 26. Epstein re-inspected the property on Aug. 8 and issued a ticket after determining the center had not halted operations, according to filing documents.

Epstein entered into evidence numerous social media posts by the shelter to substantiate and document that pet admissions and adoptions continued to occur during this two-week window.

A police log filed Aug. 1 noted that the responding officer reported a “strong” smell of urine that could be identified at multiple homes.

Qualtere lives out of state and did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.

The city’s zoning office previously issued a violation in 2018 and ordered occupants to immediately stop using the location as an adoption center.

A second batch of violations issued in November ordered occupiers to remove portable garages from the yard, which are prohibited between October 15 and May 15.

Offending at the violation level results in a first penalty of between $350 and $500; between $350 and $750 for the second in 18 months and $750 and $1,500 or between 5 and 15 days in prison for repeat offences.

Voice for the Voiceless is active on social media and has a verified Facebook account.

On Aug. 12, the same day Haripersaud raised his concerns with the city council, the shelter announced that it had taken in 29 kittens in the past three days and was “desperate for donations.”

“Most of these kittens were covered in fleas and had respiratory issues of some kind,” the post read.

Voice for the Voiceless did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.

However, owner Staci Lydon admitted the violation, a copy of which she posted on social media, and mentioned visits from animal control, city police and code enforcement in a post intended to seek relief. legal advice to users.

REINFORCED RULES

The review comes two years after the governor signed new legislation to strengthen state oversight of nonprofit animal adoption groups, bringing shelters and rescues under the same Department of agriculture and state markets that covers licensed pet dealers and municipal shelters, the Associated Press reported.

The new law also requires organizations to “follow state documentation and vaccination requirements and disclose the number of animals transported each year” and gives Ag & Markets the ability to develop new regulations.

All animal rescues, shelters and other non-profit organizations are subject to national animal cruelty laws and may be subject to investigation and/or prosecution by law enforcement.

Yet, while pet rescue organizations are regulated by Ag & Markets, the department does not have the authority to physically inspect facilities.

“The Department takes animal health very seriously and if there are any concerns regarding the condition or welfare of an animal, we encourage the public to contact their local law enforcement office or the SPCA. “said a spokesperson for the department.

Despite the heightened oversight, the law also doesn’t seem to offer a more effective way to crack down on conditions that aren’t cruelty or abuse, but enough to alert neighbors who complain of quality-of-life issues.

For Haripersaud, a potential solution is long overdue.

The landlord, who lives with his wife and three young children, said his upstairs tenants were moving because of the smell.

He often considers doing the same, but thinks it would be unfair to potential buyers.

“It will happen to someone else,” he said.

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