Wild ostrich and rare birds among 100 exotic animals seized from New York home


A New Yorker has been fined thousands for hoarding around 100 animals, including a young South American ostrich.

State and local authorities seized the creatures – some of which were exotic or endangered – from 32-year-old Matthew Spohrer’s home in North Bellmore, Long Island on Tuesday.

Among the animals kept in Spohrer’s basement and backyard were a giant African snail, a North American opossum, a tortoise and two prairie dogs, along with dozens of chickens, domestic ducks and geese.

Sphorer is alleged to have kept them in cages and is said to have planned to feed the birds to reptiles, including an endangered tiger salamander and a variety of lizards, snakes and turtles.

“He had a lot of animals that have no business being in suburbia, period,” said John Di Leonardo, Humane Long Island president and executive director.

“Especially not in someone’s shed or their basement.”

This photo from Humane Long Island, shows some of the birds rescued in North Bellmore, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. Pic: Humane Long Island via AP
Some of the birds rescued. Pic: Humane Long Island via AP

According to the group, Spohrer was seen taking the ostrich, named Eddy, and other animals to the annual Bellmore Family Street Festival in New York.

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Speaking to NBC New York, Mr Di Leonardo added: “(Spohrer) actually said that he ordered the rhea on Ebay as an egg when he was drunk. This was a stupid mistake.

“He’s been seen and photographed numerous times with this rhea in public, taking it to the fair, train stations, pet stores.

“He was charging people to go into a tent to see these animals and pet some of them.”

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John Di Leonardo holding a South American Ostrich, rescued in North Bellmore, N.Y., Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. Pic: Humane Long Island via AP
John Di Leonardo holding a South American Ostrich, rescued in North Bellmore. Pic: Humane Long Island via AP

Spohrer was issued around a half dozen summonses for harbouring endangered species, along with local ordinance violations, and was fined thousands of dollars by Nassau County SPCA who confiscated all of the animals.

Matt Roper, director of law enforcement for the SPCA, said: “He was very cooperative. He was scared. I believe he was way in over his head.

“The animals were cared for. They were fed. It wasn’t the cleanest situation.”

Di Leonardo added: “I think that this is what happens when people don’t speak up. It ends up being a hoarding situation.

“Hoarding giant birds, prairie dogs, and endangered species in a cramped basement or backyard shed is cruel and keeping them in cages next to their natural predators can cause them extreme stress.

“Simply speaking, wild animals are not pets.”

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