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47 cats removed from W.Va. house

June 08, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - After receiving complaints from neighbors about odors coming from the property, animal control officers entered a house at 89 Stuckey Court on Thursday afternoon and found 47 cats and the interior covered in cat feces.

Animal rescue officials said they have never seen such poor conditions for animals and said cat feces was practically everywhere in the one-story house.

Cat feces was 3 to 6 inches deep in some areas and there was a spot in one room where a pile of cat feces was about three-feet wide, said E.N. Webber of the Berkeley County Animal Control office.

"Cats are clean animals. The cats were probably trying to use the bathroom in certain spots. But once it gets so bad, they can only do so much," Webber said.

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Kittens were found behind a cabinet and under a sofa, and two kittens in the house were dead, said Melissa Susko, who helped rescue the cats.

"They were just in a pile of feces," said Susko, director of PIGS Animal Sanctuary in Jefferson County. PIGS Animal Sanctuary is an animal shelter and Susko was helping to remove the cats.

County rescue officials also responded to the house to supply animal control officers with special suits and breathing equipment so they could enter the house, officials said.

The house is near the Capitol Heights housing complex on the southeast edge of Martinsburg.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon, and authorities were looking for the owner of the house, said Chief Deputy Kenny Lemaster of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Animal control officers said they had arranged two appointments to meet a man at the house in an attempt to work out a solution, but he did not show up.

"We had to get the cats out of here," said Donna McMahon of the Berkeley County Animal Control office.

A next-door neighbor said the situation with the cats had been going on for about five years. The neighbor, who declined to give his name, said the cats would tear down curtains in the house, and a man would put them back up.

The neighbor said he could smell odors from the house, and he had problems with flies swarming around his house.

Animal control officers put the cats in cages and placed them in trucks.

One of the cats had what appeared to be blood around its nose, and it hissed. Growling could be heard in the truck.

It appears the cats stepped in feces, then tracked it around the house, animal control officials said.

"We were slipping and sliding in there. It was pretty bad," said Star Silva of the Promise Animal League, a cat rescue operation.

Ten of the cats had to be captured with a net and the other cats started to get nervous over the commotion in the house, animal control officers said.

The inside of the kitchen could be seen through a front window, and the counters, appliances and floor were covered in grime.

There were large, empty cat food bags stacked on the front porch, and it appeared some of them were filled with empty beer bottles.

A broken screen door on the porch was propped open and a large hole was ripped in another screen door leading into the house.

After authorities left, red signs were attached to trees and the house. The signs read "Condemned as Dangerous and Unsafe. Dangerous. Keep out."

An inspector from Berkeley County's department of planning, zoning and engineering inspected the house and condemned it, Lemaster said.

Authorities went to the house about noon and worked for about three hours.

The cats were taken to the Berkeley County Animal Control office on South Queen Street. Sheriff's department officials will make long-range plans for the animals, animal control officers said.

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