A Ronkonkoma thrift store was condemned Tuesday after investigators said they found dozens of rats being raised in “deplorable” conditions to be adopted out as pets.
The store, at 625 Portion Rd., may have had as many as 100 rats in a back room, said Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Investigators wearing face masks could be seen on Tuesday removing boxes containing rats from a business, A Long Island Picker, at that address.
Gross said 40 to 50 rats had been removed as of mid-afternoon. He said the store was being investigated for possible animal cruelty, because the animals may not have had sufficient “sustenance,” such as food, water and ventilation. Many of the animals appeared to be “in distress,” he said.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services issued a notice of violation to the store, because rats were believed to have escaped to neighboring businesses, spokeswoman Grace Kelly McGovern said.
“There were … maybe as many as 100 rats, supposedly domesticated rats,” Gross said in an telephone interview. “The conditions, I was told, were deplorable.”
Brookhaven Town officials closed the business because of poor property maintenance, spokesman Jack Krieger said. The store will remain shut until it is cleaned, he said.
Investigators found rat feces and an undetermined number of rodents, Krieger said. Dozens of rats were taken to the Brookhaven Town animal shelter until it is determined where they will go, he said.
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Store owners will not face fines if they clean the store, officials said.
Attempts to reach the owner of A Long Island Picker were unsuccessful. No one picked up calls placed to the business.
Krieger said town officials responded after receiving complaints about odors coming from the store, part of a strip mall that includes three other businesses. Town fire marshals, building inspectors and animal control officers investigated the store, Krieger said.
Suffolk County police from the Sixth Precinct also responded, officials said.
Authorities believe the store’s owner, who could not be immediately identified, was raising the rats to be sold or adopted as pets.
“These weren’t rats just coming in and out of the building, like rats like you think of coming out of the garbage,” Gross said.
McGovern said the store would have to be exterminated before it could be reopened.