14 cats seized from northeast Gainesville home after complaints

Officials with Alachua County Animal Services, left to right, Investigator Jessica Lauginiger, Officer Darlene Farnell and Officer Renee Gladney, exit a Gainesville home after removing cats that were living there.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.

Alachua County Animal Services seized 14 cats Thursday morning from the home of a 70-year-old Gainesville woman after more than a year of complaints about the cats’ conditions.

The smell of ammonia wafted from the red house at 1410 NE Fourth Ave., where the woman lived alone with her cats, Alachua County Animal Services investigator Jessica Lauginiger said.

The agency had been working over the past year with the woman to try to improve the environment for the cats, but after several complaints from neighbors that the cats were in the same condition and that the smell of cat urine was too bad, the agency decided to step in, she said.

“The ammonia levels in the air at the house were harmful and unlivable for humans,” Lauginiger said.

The agency removed 14 cats from the home and took them to a veterinarian for medical treatment but could not catch a 15th cat. Animal Services will leave a trap in the home for the last cat and check on it twice a day until the cat is caught, said Vernon Sawyer, director of Alachua County Animal Services.

At noon on Thursday, several law enforcement and city agencies were still at the woman’s house trying to find the 15th cat and calm the woman down.

Witnesses said that as officials tried to find the cat, the woman yelled, “I’ll see you rot in hell before you take Skylar!” The woman also told police, “You might as well kill me if you take my cats,” Gainesville Police Department Officer Ben Tobias said.

Police detained her under the Baker Act for psychological evaluation because of her statements and because her house was inhospitable. Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy Perry Koon said there will be a civil hearing in which a judge will determine whether she is allowed to get custody of the cats again.

The owner of the house, who did not want to be named, said he had bought the house a couple of months ago and that the woman had been renting the home for eight years.

Gainesville building official John Freeland condemned the building after several tests, which means no humans can live in the house until the owner fixes the violations, Freeland said.

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