FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) - Cumberland County condemned a mobile home just outside Fayetteville after the rescue of several cats from a woman described by investigators as a hoarder, and on Wednesday officials announced she is facing charges.
A county property inspector posted signs Tuesday morning on the Redfish Drive property that read, "This building is deemed to be unsafe for human occupancy." Sheriff's deputies went to the mobile home community Monday to conduct a welfare check at the request of management and neighbors who noticed an odor coming from the home.
"The odor emanating from the mobile home ... had neighbors believing someone died inside the home," the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office sadi.
Cumberland County Animal Control director John Lauby said workers removed three living cats from the home, one of which required euthanasia. Animal Control also recovered one dead cat, but were unable to search the home for other animals.
"There could be more in there, but until the filth is removed, it's not safe to go in. You literally need fire type respirators to breathe, to go in the house. You can't go in the house and stand for 30 seconds and breathe, you have to come back outside. it's awful," Lauby said.
"The other two may develop problems with that along the way because of... you're breathing in that almost pure ammonia that's in the air from cat urine and cat feces over time."
In a release Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office revealed that a second cat had been put down.
Investigators said one neighbor reported seeing the homeowner stop by at times to open the front door, toss cat food inside, and then leave. Lauby said that's information he wished Animal Control knew about much earlier, as they could have acted sooner.
He said it is important for the community to report cases of animal cruelty.
"When you're dealing with hoarders, they think they're caring for the animals and they think they're helping the animals. Then the next thing you know, they have 30 or 40 or 50 cats living in their home with them, and it just overwhelms them," Lauby said.
Robert Harrington lives down the street from the home and said he had no idea about the situation inside.
"She never gave nobody no problems. She was always a nice lady. She always spoke but always kept to herself. I just hate this happened. It's just something we can't control," neighbor Robert Harrington said.
"She works, she comes home, she minded her business, wouldn't be mingling out here with the other folks, but maybe that should have been a warning sign there, I think."
Cumberland County Animal Control has had a few cases of animal hoarding in the past three years where they received 20 or so pets at a time. However, Lauby said the bigger issue is irresponsible dog and cat owners who allow their pets to roam free and fail to get them vaccinated, spayed, or neutered.
Animal Control officers pick up an average of 100 cats and dogs each day between April and November. The shelter has space for 300, which Lauby said results in putting to sleep about one out of every three animals.
"It just breaks my (staff's) heart. Every day they have to come to work knowing that they're going to have to put a healthy, adoptable animal to sleep because there are not enough people adopting them," Lauby said.
The 35 percent euthanasia rate is a big improvement on the 75 percent rate a few years ago, and is in large part due to the work of rescue and foster groups. However, the shelter director said there is a problem of animal hoarders attempting to adopt additional cats and dogs.
The shelter has a rescue-foster coordinator who requires forms and documents in order for people to qualify. Lauby said animal activists across the state also file reports when they believe a person identifying themselves as rescuers may actually be a hoarder.
Lou Ann Cain was charged with three counts of felony cruelty to animals.
Her bond was set at $10,000 unsecured.
She was released on the condition she appears in court later Wednesday.
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