Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn’s underground world of illegal pets

July 8, 2017 By Paul Frangipane Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Williamsburg woman holds up a larger turtle. Eagle file photo by Keisuke Tsujimoto.
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Brooklyn is filled with proud dog-walkers, stray cats that watch lonely commuters on their late-night walks home and the occasional bird screaming through its cage out a tall window down to the streets below. But behind apartment doors and fenced in backyards across the borough, illegal pets make up a large network of Brooklyn’s animal residents.

The New York City Health Department prohibits ownership of any animal other than a domestic dog or cat, small bird or reptile or a pocket pet like a small rodent. But this law doesn’t stop exotic owners from keeping exotic pets in their homes.

Between January 2014 and January 2015, the city’s 311 system collected 251 complaints in regards to residents keeping these outlawed pets, according to a report by DNA Info.

In that same time in Brooklyn, there were seven farm animal complaints, nine snake complaints, 27 rooster complaints and 20 miscellaneous, according to a map that DNA Info compiled of all illegal pet complaints.

“This guy has this exotic bird. He brought it into his apartment. It keeps crying out in pain. He is not taking care of the bird,” one Cobble Hill resident called in to 311.

“I have a snake that is growing and I cannot accommodate it,” another person from East New York said.

The wacky stories run the gamut, like Robert Traktman of Bergen Beach being forced to ship his wolfdog off to a sanctuary after a neighbor found the beast howling locked up in a cage in Traktman’s backyard.

Or there’s the story of a Cobble Hill woman who washed her hands with peace of mind until a 7-foot python curled out of her toilet and starred into her eyes.

Most complaints deal with roosters waking angry neighbors, but there is the occasional 200-pound pig or goat in the basement.

Once these complaints get through to the city, an inspector is sent to investigate and may eventually issue a violation.

Most of the violators are slapped with a $500 fine and their beloved animals are whisked away, according to a report by the Daily News.

The risk of owning an illegal pet may be high in New York City, but while some Brooklyn residents are battling for every extra square foot in their tiny apartments, hundreds of people are making space for their prohibited precious pets.

For example, a woman in Williamsburg loves turtles. The creatures may or may not be illegal dependent on their type and size, but it is unorthodox that she keeps almost 30 turtles in her small apartment. They aren’t exactly fuzzy and warm, but turtles represent the perfect urban pet, quiet and easy to feed.

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