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The owner of the Long Island Reptile Museum faces jail time for leaving his cold-blooded creatures in a building without heat, officials said yesterday. Nassau County police charged Steven Kates, 53, with animal cruelty after learning that the heat was shut off at the bright green Hicksville museum, home to 182 tortoises, snakes and frogs.
"It's cold in there. It's absolutely life-threatening. They wouldn't make it through another night," said Roy Gross, chief of the law enforcement division of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Employees and officials said the building had been without heat and power since Monday, endangering the alligators, caimans and Gila monsters who cannot regulate their body temperatures.
A museum employee, 18-year-old Matt Ravo, said workers on Monday frantically attempted to heat up the reptiles. They piled snakes together in crates for warmth and moved other animals into the 95-degree anaconda exhibit, which remained warm.
"The animals were freezing," said Ravo. "I thought we'd lose some animals."
The Town of Oyster Bay closed the 27,000-square-foot museum to the public about two weeks ago, after inspectors found dozens of building and fire code violations. Officials allowed Kates to keep his animals, though, while he brought the building up to code.
Now, Gross said, the SPCA will begin looking for new homes for the wide array of creatures - atask that he expects to take more than a week. In the interim, the SPCA is paying for heat to be turned on at the museum.
Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor charge that can carry up to a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine. Kates could not be reached for comment.
-------------------- Even as the nineteenth century had to come to terms with the notion of human decent from apes, we must now come to terms with the fact that those apes were stoned apes. Being stoned seems to have been our unique characteristic.
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