Feb 04, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Diana Sleiertin, owner of MaxMan Reptile Rescue in Jordan, has been in and out of court since the Central New York SPCA seized more than 40 reptiles from her home in Jordan in late October.
Sleiertin currently faces 45 charges of improper confinement (a misdemeanor) and 14 additional charges for failure to provide medical care. The case is being reviewed by a town of Elbridge judge, and Sleiertin could receive up to $1,000 per charge and up to two years of prison.
Central New York SPCA Director Paul Morgan said he obtained a warrant to go into Sleiertin’s house after receiving statements from former MaxMan volunteers claiming the conditions inside her home were deplorable and the animals were not being given proper care.
Morgan, who has turned to MaxMan for help with reptiles in the past, said Sleiertin is a valuable resource, but feels she got in over her head.
“I think her intentions were good in the beginning, but I think unfortunately she became a hoarder,” he said. “She just got too many to care for.”
Morgan said the SPCA found close to 70 reptiles in Sleiertin’s home, and that they were “all over the place, in her kitchen and living room.”
Sleiertin has declined comment at the advice of her attorney, but MaxMan volunteers and others, including veterinarians who have worked closely with Sleiertin, contest the notion that Sleiertin got in over her head.
Linda Fay, a MaxMan volunteer who has known Sleiertin for about five years, said most of Sleiertin’s reptiles are kept in the “reptile room,” and all reptiles are kept in proper enclosures with appropriate heat and lighting. Some reptiles are kept throughout the house, but always in cages or tanks, Fay said.
“Sometimes it’s messier than other times, but it’s not like something you’d see on hoarders,” she said. Fay added that Sleiertin is more than equipped to take care of the reptiles she has, and can turn to her crew of volunteers for assistance. MaxMan is staffed with around 45 volunteers and offers a junior volunteer program for kids ages 8 to 18.
Fay and other supporters of Sleiertin feel the SPCA should have conducted a more thorough investigation before entering Sleiertin’s home unannounced and seizing the reptiles. Among those supporters is Laura Cook, a practicing small animal veterinarian with more than 21 years of experience.
“I have gotten to know Diana and her animals fairly well as they have presented for the New York State Veterinary Medical Society at our DVM exhibit at the New York State Fair for the last several years,” Cook said. “Diana and her animals have been a welcome addition at our exhibit … Her knowledge of the animals she keeps is outstanding.”
Cook was a humane officer in Tompkins County for three years.
“I find it from a humane officer’s point of view a serious breach of conduct that no effort was made to investigate conditions personally or interview Diana prior to seizing the animals,” she said. “Education should come first in my opinion, and seizure of animals, stressing them severely and putting them into an already strained shelter and adoption system, should be a last resort.”
Morgan insists that conditions inside Sleiertin’s home were unsatisfactory and that the SPCA was justified in seizing the animals. He said he hopes to help Sleiertin come to a compromise with how many animals she has under her care.
“One of the things we need to establish through this process is how many animals is too much,” Morgan said. “We’re not here to destroy Diana’s life … she’s a very resourceful person in the reptile world.”
While the case awaits a decision, the reptiles remain in the possession of the SPCA. An iguana was returned to Diana by the judge’s order after Sleiertin’s attorney brought it to the court’s attention that the reptile was the personal pet of Sleiertin’s son.
Fay said the iguana was returned in poorer shape than it was in when first confiscated. “It came back dehydrated, underweight, it lost quite a bit of weight,” she said. She feels the SPCA is not equipped to care for reptiles.
“The SPCA is used to taking care of cats and dogs and the occasional bunny,” she said.
Morgan said the SPCA is equipped to take care of reptiles and that the seized animals are being given proper care. The animals will remain with the SPCA until the judge comes to a decision, Morgan said.