Dead animals are messy problem in Westford

2017-05-08 | The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

May 08--Area law enforcement officials are dealing with a rotten situation in the Otsego County town of Westford, several said last week, but there isn't much they can do to resolve the issue.

Stephen M. Pandelakis, 45, was arrested more than a month ago on felony animal cruelty charges after state police found numerous dead animals -- including a dog, cat, pig, two goats, six chickens and two ducks -- on March 20 at his home at 674 county Highway 36 in the town of Westford. He was charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and 13 misdemeanor counts of torturing, injuring or failing to feed an animal, according to troopers.

Pandelakis was arrested again April 22 for failing to dispose of the dead animals, according to Trooper Nate Riegal, Troop C public information officer. He had been given 72 hours to dispose of the bodies, Riegal said.

Weeks later, the dead animals remain on the lawn of the property, officials said Thursday, and Pandelakis' neighbors are upset.

"Those dogs, goats and chickens are just laying there, just rotting away," said Lucille Beck, who owns the neighboring property at 690 County Highway 36 with her husband, Charles. "I have talked to everybody in New York, I feel like, including code enforcement, the health department, the district attorney, senators. They all say there's nothing they can do. It's a terrible eyesore and a health hazard."

Near the front door of Pandelakis' house, there is a "great, big dead dog," Beck said, and the other animals are in the back.

"I went out to look recently and just had to leave," she said. "I just couldn't stand the smell anymore."

The Becks, who have a second home in Bayport, rent their Westford house during the summer to families staying in the area for baseball camp, they said. Their first renters this year are scheduled to stay at the house the week of Memorial Day, she said.

"We can't have people here when it's like this, with this next door," Beck said. "We have rats in our house now. We've owned this place since 1980, and I've never, ever had rats here before."

According to state police, Pandelakis is scheduled to appear at the Westford Town Court on May 16. The case remains open, Riegal said.

Anthony Gentile, Otsego County's code enforcement officer, said there isn't anything his office can do because Pandelakis does not own the property.

"The issue is that he's just a tenant," Gentile said last week. "The owner of the property is the responsible party. We can't do anything because we can't reach the owner. My next step is to start writing letters, notifying the owner that she's in violation of code and needs to clean up."

Gentile said the process could "go on for years and years and years." The animals, however, should soon be completely decomposed, he pointed out.

Although the case may seem strange, Gentile said, it's not unusual. Property owners cannot be forced to clean their houses, he said.

"I know of probably a thousand places that are probably a thousand times worse because owners refuse to deal with them," Gentile said. "Unless we can find a millionaire who wants to clean up all these places, the only thing any municipality can do is follow the law, which requires written notices, and a second and a third."

Jessica Reynolds can be reached at jreynolds@thedailystar.com or (607)432-1000 ext. 221. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_JessicaR.