Dozens of pets, many of them ill and living in unsanitary conditions, were removed from a home over the weekend, and investigators say this is not the first time that the pet owner has faced allegations of animal cruelty.
Neighbors have complained for years that the owner of the home in Willard has been hoarding animals and keeping them in unsanitary conditions.
“The concern is the animals really, and the smell in summertime you know is pretty rough, depending on which direction the wind is blowing,” Willard resident Steve Pigg told FOX 8.
The home along Spring Street was raided twice before, in 2011 and 2014, and more than 125 animals, most of them cats, were removed. Then on Saturday, officers with the Huron County Humane Society executed a search warrant and seized 33 cats, one chicken and a dog. Investigators said the conditions that the animals were forced to live in were unacceptable and many of them were in poor health.
“They were in varying degrees of malnutrition, varying degrees of upper respiratory infection, eye ulcers on some of the kittens and cats, and it’s not right for humans or animals to live in those conditions,” said Huron County Humane Officer Daphne Nelson.
The 69-year-old homeowner pleaded no contest to cruelty charges in the earlier cases, paid a fine and was ordered to undergo counseling. Those familiar with her ongoing behavior believe she started with the best of intentions.
“It just gets out of hand, you know? I think she’s lonely. I think she likes the animals,” said Pigg.
Nelson added, “When you take on too many cats like that, sometimes money comes into play. You can’t get them all vetted to make sure that everything is going well. Any unsanitary conditions, you can end up with, you know, malnourishment, upper respiratory infections, eye diseases. So it’s not always good to take in all these animals.”
The humane society is so overwhelmed by the size and scope of the Willard case and other recent investigations that they are now waiving adoption fees for any animal lovers willing to take a cat or kitten into their home.
“It definitely takes a toll here at the shelter. The shelter workers are stressed out, overworked, trying keep up with all the animals, get them healthy,” said Nelson.
A special prosecutor will now consider charges for a third time against the woman accused of hoarding the pets.
“It can become very unmanageable, you know? You have to have that cutoff point and realize that, you know, ‘This is over my limit, I can’t deal with this many.’ If you’re having issues, reach out, you know? Contact your local humane society or APL and let them know there’s an issue,” said Nelson.
Pigg told us, “I don’t think they need to put her in jail or nothing, you know, but they’ve got to do something about it.”
We are told the animals are now getting the care they need and when they are well enough, they will be put up for adoption.