NORTH TONAWANDA – An abandoned house at 155 Roncroff Drive has been boarded up and deemed uninhabitable after 50 cats were taken from the house over two days.
One cat was found dead after he tangled himself in the coils of a mattress, nearly 85 percent were not sociable, while others suffered from injuries, according to SPCA of Niagara Director Amy Lewis.
“One cat had a broken leg and did not receive medical attention, others had flea allergies and skin dermatitis and the air quality was very poor,” said Lewis.
She said charges of animal cruelty could be leveled in this case, as well as unsanitary conditions.
“The cats were living in unsanitary conditions for several months. They were fed and watered, but weren’t being cleaned up after, so there was feces and urine everywhere, on furniture, the mattress, couches – all were urine filled. Really you couldn’t step anywhere without walking through feces,” Lewis said.
Code enforcement officers were alerted on Friday by a complaint about the smell of cats, North Tonawanda Building Inspector Cosimo R. Capozzi said.
“I opened the door and only went in as far as the kitchen. It was nasty,” Capozzi said. “It’s the worst I’ve seen in 10 years.
“The last time I saw something like this was in the mid-’90s and that whole house had to be gutted, right down to the studs,” he said Tuesday.
Capozzi said the home is owned by Elma Jorgensen, who lists the house as her residence, but did not appear to be living there.
The case remains under investigation and no one has been charged, police said.
Neighbors saw a woman coming in once a day to feed the cats, but it is unclear if that is Jorgensen, Capozzi said.
The SPCA of Niagara, with help from police and fire, seized 43 cats on Friday, finding no heat in the house, no running water and feces littering the entire house.
Jorgensen went to police on Saturday, after finding the house boarded up, and informed them there were additional cats in the house, Capozzi said. Six more live cats and the deceased one were seized on Monday.
Capozzi said all but one window in the home has been boarded up, to make it possible for any potentially remaining cats to escape.
The cats are currently being evaluated by the SPCA of Niagara for possible adoptions.
“A lot of the cats are not social, 80 to 85 percent. We hope as they are cleaned and handled, we can sort out those that are truly feral. A lot are showing fearful behavior, they don’t want to be handled or hide, but a few are actively aggressive,” Lewis said. She said officials plan to offer all the cats for adoption, but those that are not social will be offered free as barn cats.
Capozzi said the future of the house is also being evaluated.
“The house is in real bad shape,” he said. “We are still waiting for a response from the owner of the house to see if she is going to do anything. The structure is sound and we have to give the owner the opportunity to fix the problem, gut the house and start over. That’s probably what it needs. It’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight.”