26 cats removed from filthy Heights house

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Authorities removed 26 cats, including two dead ones, from a filthy north end house Oct. 5 after receiving complaints from neighbors of a strong odor coming from inside.

A group of officers went to the house to speak with the owner, who voluntarily let them in, police said. Inside they found numerous litter boxes brimming with excrement, feces and urine on floors and other surfaces throughout the house, and a stench so strong it made more than one officer sick.

“Once they got in, it was a mess,” Chief Lee Gavin said. “They said with the door open, you could smell the odor from the sidewalk. The (hardwood) floors had disintegrated to almost like pressboard (from cat urine).”

While the resident, a woman in her 70s, arranged to stay with a friend, authorities boarded up the house in the 5700 block of Vernon that night. The next day, Heights and Dearborn animal control officers returned to remove the flea-ridden felines, which currently are being housed at the Taylor Animal Shelter.

During the rescue police discovered two dead cats in a freezer, the corpses sitting on top of frozen food items.

Heights Animal Control Officer Bill Dishroon said most of the cats appear to be feral, although a final determination still has to be made by a veterinarian. Dishroon was one of two officers bitten during the rescue and described the cats as “pretty mean.”

“We don’t think (the resident) had much contact with the cats,” Dishroon said. “These weren’t lap cats. It’s my understanding that she basically left the back door open and put out food and water.”

In addition to the 24 cats that already had been removed, animal control officers were expected to return to the house Monday to see if any cats had been caught in traps that were set.

Police said the woman appeared to be in fine condition at the time of the incident and currently is employed. The investigation has been referred to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office animal cruelty unit for potential criminal charges, although none had been filed as of press time.