People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is pushing the city of Aurora to press charges against the man who hoarded 478 birds -- 120 of them dead -- in his townhouse, saying he needs court-mandated mental health treatment.
PETA sent a letter Wednesday to police Chief Greg Thomas, Mayor Tom Weisner and other city officials requesting criminal charges be filed against Dave Skeberdis, 57, whose large population of birds inside his trash-infested home was discovered Oct. 19.
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"We are pushing for Skeberdis to be charged under Illinois state statute, the Humane Care for Animals Act," said Kristin Simon, a senior cruelty caseworker with PETA's cruelty investigations department. "It provides specific details for how animals are to be cared for with regard to food, water, shelter and humane living conditions."
Simon said reports about the condition of Skeberdis' townhouse, which had stairways covered with about three feet of garbage, bird feed and bird feces, indicate his animals were not living in humane conditions. She said the Humane Care for Animals Act also defines an animal hoarder as someone who possesses a large number of companion animals, keeps them in an overcrowded environment and is unable to properly care for them.
"We believe Skeberdis is a hoarder and if he's convicted, he needs to be sentenced as a hoarder," Simon said. "The most important part is that he receive court-mandated mental health help. He needs to be seen specifically for hoarding tendencies."
Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli confirmed the city received the letter from PETA. He said the investigation is ongoing and criminal charges have not been ruled out.
Simon said PETA is most concerned with making sure Skeberdis gets mental health counseling so he does not continue to mistreat animals. The living birds removed from his home Oct. 26 now are in the care of Greater Chicago Cage Bird Club, which is quarantining them for up to two months in a Villa Park storefront.
"This is a mental illness; it needs to be dealt with as a mental illness," she said. "That's the only way to preclude him from getting more animals again."