A Jamestown man charged with animal cruelty in March will return to court Tuesday, for what is expected to be the last chapter in the legal saga which has placed 13 felines in legal limbo since police removed them from a home on Orchard Street.
Jason Nasser, 28, of Fulton Street, pleaded guilty in October to violating section 353 of the New York State Agriculture and Markets code, more commonly known as a charge of animal cruelty.
Around 8 p.m. on March 17, Jamestown Police responded to a call about a burglary in progress at 16 Orchard St. and determined the house was vacant and condemned. They then found 13 cats locked inside an upstairs bedroom with no water and little food to eat. At the time, officers said there was a significant amount of feces and urine in the room.
Thirteen cats were taken from this home on Orchard Street in March and are currently living in the Humane Society’s stray center on Fluvanna Avenue.
Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Assessor’s Office
The vacant property was traced back to Nasser, and he was subsequently charged.
Police removed the animals from the house and since that day, all 13 cats have been living in a cat colony of sorts at the stray center of the Chautauqua County Humane Society's stray center on Fluvanna Avenue near Roseland Park.
''They have one entire side of the dog runs to live, about a quarter of the facility,'' said Jeff Lubi, executive director of the Chautauqua County Humane Society. ''It's a big space for them to play instead of keeping them in separate cages. They have toys, beds, blankets and litter boxes, and our volunteers go down there to socialize with them.''
The cats have been living at the stray center for almost nine months now, and stuck in a legal limbo of sorts. They are still technically Nasser's property, so they can't be adopted out.
The Humane Society has spent their own time and money sustaining them in the stray center rather than moving them through the adoption process, but this may change Tuesday.
When Nasser returns to Jamestown City Court and Judge John LaMancuso hands down his decision, it can go one of two ways.
Nasser may be allowed to get the cats back if he pays for the care they have received over the past nine months or the judge may forfeit them to the Humane Society.
Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley said Nasser will likely receive a conditional discharge, allowing the charge to be dismissed if he doesn't have any run-ins with the law over the next year.
''It wasn't my impression that he was collecting the cats to be cruel to them,'' Foley said. ''It was a just a situation that he was not properly caring for them. If the animals are forfeited Tuesday, I believe they would soon be available for adoption.''
Lubi is hoping the judge's decision leans toward that direction as he would like to give the cats a chance at a new home for Christmas.
When a cat is taken in to the stray center as an actual stray, it only remains there for five days, according to Lubi, as most owners, about 200 to 300 a year, use that time to reclaim pets. If they are still there after five days, they then receive a medical and temperament exam, and can move through the process to eventually get adopted.
''When a case carries on for a long period of time through the courts it can drive our staff crazy, because we all want what's best for the animals,'' Lubi said. ''The situation isn't ideal for the cats but they do get the best care available until they are no longer in legal limbo.''