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NY Press x3: Reptile museum owner won't reopen

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Mon Nov 15 05:33:18 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

It doesn't quite answer your question, but here's what I have on the situation ...

NEWSDAY (New York, NY) 11 November 04 Reptile museum owner won't reopen (Tomoeh Murakami)
The owner of the financially troubled Long Island Reptile Museum in Hicksville Wednesday said he would not seek to reopen the gallery after its alligators, tortoises, snakes and other cold-blooded residents were evacuated Tuesday night to save them from freezing to death.
"The museum is not going to open again because I can't physically and emotionally deal with all of the nonsupport," said Steven Kates, who in 1995 opened the museum at 70 Broadway.
The building has been the focus of attention in recent weeks, with the town shutting it down on Oct. 29 for multiple fire and building code violations, the most recent in a string of citations going back several years.
Since the closing, the reptiles had remained on the premises, and Kates said museum staff had been caring for them. Kates had met with the town to seek to reopen it, town officials said.
But on Monday, LIPA turned off electricity to the facility for nonpayment of bills, and on Tuesday animal rescue workers responded to an anonymous tip that the reptiles were in danger of freezing.
"They never would have made it through the night," Suffolk County SPCA chief Roy Gross said after the workers labored through the night to remove the animals, taking them to a wildlife conservation facility in Hauppauge. The museum, Gross said, was about 50 degrees, well below what is necessary for the reptiles to survive.
Kates, who was cited for misdemeanor neglect of animals and must appear in First District Court in Hempstead next week, said he had always taken good care of the reptiles. He maintained they did not have to be taken from his care. Kates said he had been using electric heaters and halogen light bulbs to heat the museum since KeySpan disconnected his gas service a year ago for nonpayment.
After LIPA stopped servicing the museum as well on Monday, Kates said he went to the museum that night to check on the reptiles and they were fine.
Kates said he owed LIPA more than $12,000 and KeySpan $6,000. Given the circumstances, Kates said he would have to shut down the museum, which he said he had fought to keep open by spending his personal income and assets. "There's no doubt that we owe lots of money to lots of people because the place doesn't make any money," he said. "For the last five years do you know how many times I personally had no money to pay my own electric bill? ... My animals had food sometimes more easily than I did."

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (New York) 11 November 04 Snakes alive! Hot time for reptiles (Carrie Melago)
Dozens of lizards and snakes removed from the Long Island Reptile Museum were settling into their new home yesterday.
More than 150 creatures were whisked to a Suffolk County animal care facility late Tuesday night after authorities determined that they wouldn't survive another day inside the heatless Hicksville museum.
"If we didn't get them out of there, I'm sure they would have all perished," said Roy Gross, chief of department for the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "They're all warm and toasty now."
Several animals - including geckos and small frogs - were found dead in murky tanks inside the 50-degree museum, while an albino bullfrog and several turtles required veterinary care, authorities said.
But the rest of the animals are adjusting well to their aquariums and habitats at the undisclosed facility - including two frisky box turtles that are already mating.
"The animals are safe. They're all together and doing much better," said Lori Green of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, which is helping take care of the creatures. "They were lethargic because of the cold yesterday, but they are waking up now."
The museum's owner, Steve Kates, was charged with animal cruelty Tuesday because of the building's frigid temperatures. Gross said Kates eventually fled the museum late Tuesday, leaving SPCA agents and volunteers to cage all the animals.
"We were trying to work together," Gross said. "We had no choice but to find another location."
A favorite spot for birthday parties and field trips, the museum was a fixture along Broadway in Hicksville for nine years. But some animal activists criticized its treatment of animals, and last month, the Town of Oyster Bay cited it for numerous code violations.
"The conditions were horrific," said Green, a former employee at the museum.
The Suffolk SPCA seeks donations to defray the costs of keeping the reptiles alive. Donations can be sent to 363 Route 111, Suite 5, Smithtown, N.Y. 11787, or call (631) 382-7722.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (New York) 10 November 04 Snake man in hot water over heat (Carrie Melago)
The owner of the Long Island Reptile Museum faces jail time for leaving his cold-blooded creatures in a building without heat, officials said yesterday.
Nassau County police charged Steven Kates, 53, with animal cruelty after learning that the heat was shut off at the bright green Hicksville museum, home to 182 tortoises, snakes and frogs.
"It's cold in there. It's absolutely life-threatening. They wouldn't make it through another night," said Roy Gross, chief of the law enforcement division of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Employees and officials said the building had been without heat and power since Monday, endangering the alligators, caimans and Gila monsters who cannot regulate their body temperatures.
A museum employee, 18-year-old Matt Ravo, said workers on Monday frantically attempted to heat up the reptiles. They piled snakes together in crates for warmth and moved other animals into the 95-degree anaconda exhibit, which remained warm.
"The animals were freezing," said Ravo. "I thought we'd lose some animals."
The Town of Oyster Bay closed the 27,000-square-foot museum to the public about two weeks ago, after inspectors found dozens of building and fire code violations. Officials allowed Kates to keep his animals, though, while he brought the building up to code.
Now, Gross said, the SPCA will begin looking for new homes for the wide array of creatures - atask that he expects to take more than a week. In the interim, the SPCA is paying for heat to be turned on at the museum.
Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor charge that can carry up to a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine. Kates could not be reached for comment.
Reptile museum owner won't reopen


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