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Dozens of cats removed from feces-ridden New Jersey house

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Almost 100 cats and one dog were found living in a feces- and filth-ridden New Jersey house, in what local authorities are calling among the worst cases of animal cruelty they have ever seen.

Authorities had to wear masks in order to help them breathe through the stench of urine as they removed cats from the million-dollar, two-story brick house in Chester Township.

"The conditions were absolutely horrific," said Rick Yocum, a lieutenant with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "There wasn't one inch of that house that wasn't covered in feces or urine. There were three foot piles of feces in the hallways.

Wanda Oughton, the homeowner who lives there with two adult children, is expected to face criminal and civil charges, possibly as early as this weekend.

According to media reports, the floors, couches and tables of the home were littered with waste, and garbage was crammed into microwaves and ovens. The bottom of a bathtub had an eight-inch mound of feces, authorities said.

"It was horrible to go in there," SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton said. "Our people had to fill their nostrils with Vick's VapoRub and wear masks. They could only go in for five minutes at a time and had to come out to get fresh air again."

Oughton refused to leave the house during the initial investigation and declined to speak to reporters.

"Go away. Go away. We have a call in to the police," two women yelled at reporters through the front door.

SPCA officials believe Oughton and her family to be animal hoarders, not "horrible people", said SPCA Superintendent Frank Rizzo.

"For hoarders, the animal is the most important thing," Rizzo said. "More important than their own health."

Yocum said they plan to ask Oughton to undergo a mental health assessment.

About 20 cats were removed from the house Thursday and are being treated for upper respiratory problems. The remaining cats are to be taken out Friday, and will be distributed to different veterinarians so no one office is too overwhelmed.


Sources