By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – Victor “Buddy” Amato, chief law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said his department has a daunting task ahead as they investigate the circumstances surrounding the discovery of hundreds of dead birds in a borough home.
“You’re talking about a very, very monumental task to determine the cause of death,” Amato said.
According to Amato, there were 370 dead birds and 19 live ones found on Monday, March 10, in the Mitchell Place home owned by the mother of Gretchen Rell, an SPCA volunteer.
SPCA investigators also found two or three dead birds in Rell’s Ocean Township home.
The county SPCA is the lead investigating agency at this point, with investigators being assisted by the Little Silver Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Amato said.
“We’re still at the infant stage of this. There could be a number of reasons why they died,” he said, stressing that , “right now, we know the animals were brought there alive.”
There was a variety of different types of birds discovered at the site, including pigeons, doves, seagulls and sparrows, along with the carcasses of rabbits and other mammals, Amato said.
Necropsies are expected to be performed as soon as possible. “Obviously, we’re going to figure this out,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Rell has not been charged with anything, Amato said.
Investigators learned about the situation when Rell’s brother, who lives out of state and was visiting their mother, contacted the county SPCA, Amato said.
Rell, 54, had been for a number of years contributing as a volunteer for the county SPCA, obtaining a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a rehabilitator or rehabber, as they’re referred to, according to Amato.
Rell was a sub-permittee, working under the supervision of Toms River Avian Care, since 2008, said DEP spokesman Bob Considine, in an email.