A Bronx couple is facing two years in jail for turning a Williamsburg loft and art studio into a fetid feline prison that housed close to 100 emaciated cats, several of whom actually fell through holes in the urine-soaked floor.
Bronx residents Michael Fiore, 51, and his wife Hazel Fiore, 57, were indicted for the crime last week for stuffing the cats and kittens into a third-floor space on Metropolitan Avenue between Manhattan and Graham avenues that they used for their silk-screening business.
The couple’s alleged hoarding was discovered last July when five of the cats — two of which were blind — fell through the urine-soaked and rotting floorboards into the Camel Arts Space below.
“I came in one morning and found a cat right here in the middle of the hallway,” artist Rob Deoude told New York 1. “We didn’t think it was possible that it would be coming from upstairs, but I literally saw one fall through the ceiling. We started putting mattresses down because we didn’t want cats falling on the bare wood floor 12 feet down.”
Workers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found a disgusting scene: a stifling, garbage- and feces-covered loft filled with cats suffering from malnutrition and a host of other ailments.
Many of the cats were blind from eye infections, while others were dehydrated, emaciated and had respiratory problems.
Those were the lucky ones; several decaying cat carcasses were found throughout the loft, officials said.
Many in the artist cooperative were horrified over what they saw, though one man who knows the couple said that the Fiores were good people.
“I’ve known them for over 10 years — they’re not monsters,” said Herb Brickner, who works next door. “They just wanted to take care of the neighborhood cats, but things got way out of hand because the cats kept having kittens. This wasn’t done on purpose.”
A law enforcement source said that Michael Fiore has admitted that he did not properly care for the cats. He was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, while his wife was charged with a misdemeanor count of torturing and injuring of animals.
Both were released on their own recognizance. Calls to their attorney were not returned.