Many Bushwick residents wondered what happened to the animals retrieved from the roof and basement of 71 Central Ave after a February raid conducted by the ASPCA and the police. Others wondered how the pet store associated with the address could remain open. If you’re among the curious, here’s an answer for you: Jeremias Nieves, resident of the address and undisputed owner of the animals, but not the owner of the pet store, has been arraigned on criminal charges by the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
Nieves made national news in 2014 when he was arrested as part of a multi-county bust involving 3,000 battered birds, 50 of which Mr. Nieves was keeping in the basement of 71 Central Ave. Eight other individuals were also arrested then, and action on the case stretched all the way to Albany. At the time, Nieves pleaded guilty to felony animal fighting.
A second raid took place in December of 2015, well after Mr. Nieves was convicted (he had been banned from owning an animal for three years at the time of his conviction). The NYPD’s Animal Cruelty Investigation squad allegedly found 32 roosters, which Mr. Nieves surrendered.
A third raid at the address this past February was even bigger than the first and second. Sixty-eight roosters and hens were removed from the Central Ave address, along with a menagerie of other animals. The NYPD allegedly also discovered various animal fighting tools, including 107 gaffs (a steel/spur/knife used during fights), 15 “dremel tool” attachments (used for grinding spurs) and 15 “beak bits” (to prevent pecking). No arrests were made as Mr. Nieves was in Puerto Rico at the time of the raid, the Queens DA’s office tells Bushwick Daily.
Yesterday afternoon, Nieves was officially charged with fifth-degree conspiracy, second-degree criminal contempt and multiple violations of the New York State Agricultural and Market Law 26-351 and its subsections (prohibition of animal fighting), 26-353 (overdrive, torturing and injuring animals; failure to provide sustenance), and 26-6-A (prohibition of animal fighting).
The business itself, which does business as Pet NV Discounts LLC, has been registered to an Oneida Nieves since 2012: at the time of Jeremias Nieves’s arrest and subsequent conviction in 2014, he was not legally responsible for the store. It remains open as a separate business entity. The illegal activity took place in the same building, but the press release from the DA’s office states that the roof, basement, and backyard were used exclusively by Mr. Nieves. Bushwick Daily reached out to the owner of the building, identified in city records as Felix Nieves, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Pet NV does not have a Department of Agriculture and Markets Pet Dealer License, which is required for the sale of more than nine dogs and/or cats a year. The store also does not have a Department of Consumer Affairs Sale of Small Animals Permit— though it is unclear whether any of the alleged took place in the store itself.
According to the Queens DA, Nieves, who faces up to four years in prison if convicted, was ordered released on his own recognizance and to return to court on July 11, 2016.