Town sues homeowner after finding cat corpses, feces

kjahner@newsobserver.comJanuary 6, 2014 

— The Town of Garner filed suit against a homeowner after finding dead cats and a floor covered in animal feces in a dilapidated, abandoned home not secure from the elements.

On Dec. 20 the town asked the court to let it enter the home at 2015 Ford Gates Drive and clean up what it regards a public health nuisance. The town also wants the defendant to pay any costs incurred, as well as an unpaid fee from an October cutting of over-grown grass. A judge issued a temporary order forcing the defendant to clean up or to allow the town to enter the home to clean it up. Monday, a hearing was held on whether to make that order permenant through the lawsuit.

The town believes the owner of the house, Kathleen Louise Smith, has been staying at her mother’s house in Salisbury. She has not responded to requests to return to Garner to “to be a part of the effort to salvage her personal property and clean up the house,” according to the motion. She had been part of ongoing conversations with the town about the home “for several years.”

Town building inspector Paul Ray entered the house with Smith’s permission after a hearing and an “order to repair or demolish” was issued. The house had masonite that had deteriorated and allowed for the potential entry of “pests, vermin and children into the fireplace enclosure and allowing water intrusion.”

Ray found that no efforts had been made to clean up the house. The complaint said he found dead cats and the house littered with cat manure up to six inches high. He also determined that the cats had been welcome.

“The toilet had been jerry-rigged to provide continuous flow, presumably to serve as a water fountain for the cats, and the toilet had overflowed or leaked water onto the floor, wetting a substantial part of the interior of the house,,” the motion said.

Ray deemed the house unsafe for entry without protective clothing and a face mask, and was unable to fully assess the damages. He also cited signs of hoarding, and piles of items can be seen through garage windows from the street.

Smith could not be reached for comment. A voice message left at her mother’s house in Salisbury was not returned.

If the court approves the injunction, Garner will be allowed to clean up the house at Smith’s expense. Garner also wants confirmation of the repair or demolish order.

The town also wants an order preventing Smith from maintaining any pets on the premises, and $227.83 to pay for the cost-plus-interest of the town cutting four-foot tall grass in the back yard.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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