Is it cruelty to animals? Are laws being violated when cats are left without human contact? Why won’t authorities do anything? Who should be contacted?
Neighbors of a home at 904 N. Mill St. in Syracuse are bringing to the public’s a matter of a large number of felines being left alone inside the residence. Allegations have also been made that the cats were sick and not being cared for.
While the numbers of cats has allegedly been embellished by those posting on Facebook and alerting all area media, there are approximately 18 cats and a few kittens inside the residence. That is according to the owner of the property, Gayle Benson-Sauers.
Syracuse Police have been receiving complaints against the property. Sauers moved out over a year ago to care for her parents and admits she left behind her three cats and others belonging to her daughters. But she insists the animals are still being fed and cared for.
In addition to the complaints being lodged against her, Sauers said someone has “plastered 13 signs all over my house.” The signs were removed by the family over the weekend, but one of those signs was written on a piece of mail delivered to the residence and allegedly removed from the mailbox and taped to the home.
Accusations from neighbor Amy West is that the animals are not being fed. West said she has not seen anyone or any vehicles at the residence. But Sauers disputes that, stating her daughter stops by to feed and water the cats. Working third shift, the visits are made either en route to work or on her way home at 6 a.m. in the morning. “People are in at all different times,” Sauers said.
Another neighbor claimed he went into the home with one of Sauers’ daughters and removed two cats. Those cats were allegedly taken to a vet and found to have ear infections, parasites and matted eyes. Sauers said her cats are healthy and that no one had been let in the house for over a year and that was only because someone wanted to take newborn kittens, but was not allowed to.
Syracuse Police have investigated the allegations of cruelty to the cats and have been to the residence on several occasions. “While there are numerous cats kept inside the home, the animals are being fed and watered and provided shelter as required by Indiana law,” stated Syracuse Police Chief Tony Ciriello. “According to Indiana Statute (IC 35-46-3-0.1) the animals are not considered abandoned until such time they are left without the essentials listed above.”
Ciriello added that while they have researched the laws, the only law broken has been the town ordinance regarding vaccination of animals. Sauers and her daughters have been made aware of this violation and have been given 14 days to get all of the cats vaccinated and show proof of such.
The homeowner has been issued notices of trash and grass issues which appropriate action will be taken as prescribed by ordinance if compliance is not met.
“It’s more than fair,” Ciriello stated regarding the time frame Sauers has been given to comply. “We recognize people are unhappy with (the cats) being in there without human contact,” he noted. But legally, he said nothing can be done.
Ciriello also noted homes for some of the kittens have been found and will be going to their new homes soon. Accusations that dead cats have been buried in the yard at the residence have also been investigated and deemed unfounded.
Because the environment inside the home was a concern, police did contact the county health department. Bill Baxter, environmental scientist for the county, has investigated. Baxter said, “in terms of just general filth … it’s gotten a little out of hand.” While there are litter boxes inside for the cats, those have not been cleaned. “Cats are particular,” he added, noting this has caused them to urinate and defecate outside the litter boxes. But the homeowner and her family are working with authorities to clean the mess.
“They have until the end of the month to get things resolved,” Baxter said. He also noted he was in the home three weeks ago and said progress is being made. The home will be reinspected at the end of the month.
“My cats aren’t going anywhere,” Sauers stated, but did say one of her daughters is trying to find homes for some of the kittens.
Sauers has contacted police to file charges of trespassing and vandalism against those who have posted videos and photos on their Facebook pages. Sauers said the videos, one of which appears on the Facebook page of Shanna Niles as posted above, are taken looking inside the front window. She is also seeking federal charges against whomever removed the mail from her mailbox.