'The stench is so bad': Dozens of cats discovered in Augusta 'hoarder home'

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AUGUSTA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The Butler County Sheriff is investigating a case of dozens of hoarded animals near Augusta.

Crews spent most of Thursday morning in the 10000 block of SW 114th Terrace. Sheriff Kelly Herzet told KAKE News that at least 60 cats, some dead, and a dead, decaying dog were found inside the home. Though he said there likely would be more.

That came as no surprise to Stephanie Heinz who lives next door and tried to get someone to investigate for nearly three years. Her complaints started with overgrown weeds and abandoned vehicles in the yard but they quickly escalated to something much more serious and deadly.

“I was told animals are property and as long as she showed up periodically to feed them that there’s nothing they could do and that’s the law,” she said.

Every time rescue groups or investigators would show up for welfare checks, no one answered the door.

They now know that she did come to the home, periodically. Both Heinz and investigators with the sheriff’s office said that the renter would periodically bring a bag of food to the home. She would open the garage and the bag so that the animals could eat and then leave again.

But until she gave the okay, neither animal rescue groups nor the sheriff’s office could go inside. All Heinz could do was watch as conditions outside, and likely inside, got increasingly worse.

“The air conditioner was so grown over. There was no air conditioning running. In the winter, the windows would ice over from the inside,” she said. “Our hands would continue to be tied because once in awhile she would come to feed them.”

Sheriff Herzet said that based on the information he’d received, the renter didn’t even live at the property. But she did continue to pay rent and utilities. Finally, deputies were given permission when the renter surrendered her rights to the animals.

“We made entry, we’re working a criminal case on animal cruelty that we hope to send to the County Attorney’s office,” he said.

When you pull up to the address, the first thing you’ll notice is the stench. There is a sign on one of the doors that says “Beware of Dog” along with caution tape hanging off a porch. But that smell of decaying animals proved to be a lot, even for investigators.

“The stench is so bad, we’ve got respirators on. We’ve got suits on, booties on our feet,” he said. “We’ve sprayed our people with tick and flea spray. Those investigators found the cats and the remains of a dog inside.

Heinz said she is grateful the situation is over, or at least being investigated fully. But it disturbs her that it took this long to get anything done.

“I’m sad and I’m angry all at once,” she said. “To just know that there aren’t laws that make this any quicker.”

She said several dead cats and the dead dog were found in a nonworking freezer. 

The estimates of 60+ animals given will likely grow higher. Crews set out traps, fearing many more cats were hiding inside walls, or in the attic because they were afraid of the entries made on Thursday.

Heinz said the Butter County Commission will be asked to condemn the property at next Tuesday's meeting. Sheriff Herzet and a zoning official asked her to testify. 

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