Patricia Coleman loves animals, but in her job as an animal control officer for the Town of Clarkstown she frequently must cope with injured or dead animals.
She's seen a lot in her years in the job, but even she was shocked by Thursday's discovery of more than 30 animal bodies found dumped on the side of an entrance ramp to the Hutchinson River Parkway in Harrison.
"I was horrified that people could do something like this," said Coleman. She's heard of similiar occurances in the southern part of the United States, but not in suburban New York.
Dr. Brian Green of the Sleepy Hollow Animal Hospital was also shocked when he learned of the gruesome discovery, which included finding bodies of cats, dogs and even a Monitor Lizard.
"From what I've read and heard the conditions appear such that much of them were healthy," said Green of the . "They were in some sort of really bad kill shelter, which is extra unlikely, or someone was trying to sell these animals and couldn't."
Green said he was particularly disturbed that police suspect the dumping has been going on for some time.
"I've heard they will be conducting necropsies on the animals to find out the cause of death but I'm not sure what that will do," Green said. "There's so little known. It's pretty gruesome."
Coleman said she suspects that the animals may have been dumped by a contractor paid by veterinarians to bring deceased animals to a crematorium. Coleman theorized that the contractor may have simply dumped the bodies and pocketed the money that would have been paid to have the animals cremated.
While she does not think investigators will have much luck tracking the dumpers through the remains of the cats and dogs, Coleman said the discovery of the lizard's body is unique and could possibly be the best clue for Westchester County police.
Brian Bradshaw, operations manager at Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona, said he has never seen anything like this dumping incident before.
"If something like this happens, animal shelters will reach out local animal control and nearby shelters," Bradshaw said. "They can help piece clues together."
Marcy Rydd of Pets Alive Westchester in Elmsford said the team there was shocked to learn of Thursday's discovery.
"Westchester county is made up of wonderful people who are loving and extremely dedicated pet owners, and we are proud to support and be a part of such a wonderful community," Rydd said. "We have full faith that the authorities will solve this crime quickly, because the people of Westchester and beyond will rally to help.”
Dana Rocco, shelter manager at the , couldn't believe what she'd originally heard about the animals.
She played different scenarios in her mind about who could have done such a thing.
"Was this a hoarder who let things get out of control?" Rocco said. "If the person had access to a veterinarian, they could have been bringing the animals to a hospital and couldn't afford a proper burial."
She said the bigger question is what happened to these animals before they were euthanized.
"Were they animals that were potentially abused and then dumped?" Rocco wondered. "That is the biggest fear in my mind. Were these animals abused?"
Ernest Lungaro, SPCA of Westchester's director of humane law enforcement, said he is currently with Westchester County detectives on the case.
"We are doing a joint investigation because it is a possible animal cruelty and we have 35 animals that were dumped on the side of the road," Lungaro said. "There were 35 animals — 8 dogs, 1 lizard and 26 cats. They were left in black plastic bags on the side of the road by the Hutchinson entranceway."
Lungaro said five of the animals were brought for necropsies based on the beliefthat these animals were euthanized.
"We don't believe it was a hoarding situation or one of owner of all the animals...they had separate pet owners," Lungaro. "The pet owners [probably] brought their animals, cat or dog, to a facility that euthanized them and that facility improperly dumped these animals."
Lungaro said the SPCA has been receiving tips from the public related to this incident.
Westchester County Police are investigating the incident along with the SPCA. Anyone with any information about the incident is urged to call 1-800-898-8477 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The 24-hour SPCA animal abuse hotline in Westchester is 914-941-7797.