2017-02-16 / Front Page

Police search for owner of 30+ cats found in home now condemned

810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

GAINES TOWNSHIP – Authorities say they aren’t sure what will become of about 30 cats found in a vacant home on Grand Blanc Road.

Gaines Township Police Chief Mark Schmitzer discovered the cats when he went to the home to check the welfare of the former resident.

“He hadn’t been seen in a couple of weeks,” said Schmitzer. “I found the door and a window open and cats crawling in and out and rubbish up to the armpit in the house with trails going through it. In one room, it’s up to the ceiling.”

Schmitzer later learned that the resident, whom he described as a handicapped man in his 60s, had apparently moved to a mobile home park in Argentine Township.

The chief attempted to contact the man, to get him to surrender his rights to the animals, but no one answered the door at the trailer, he said. A park manager confirmed that the man lives there, but Schmitzer did not know if he was staying with relatives or friends, or living alone.

He said he posted a notice on the door directing the man to contact him.

“We’re trying to get someone to sign off on those cats so we don’t have to try to get a court order,” he said.

Meanwhile, Genesee County Animal Control Director Paul Wallace said his agency is doing what it can to support the township police, but they have no authority to take action on their own.

Wallace said he sent a team to survey the situation.

“They saw seven cats,” he said. “They looked healthy. So that’s good news. The team couldn’t access the house because the owner isn’t there and we don’t just walk into people’s houses.”

The team put food out for the animals.

“We will tend their little colony until the township decides what they are going to do,” Wallace said.

“This would strictly be a humanitarian issue for us. All the laws we operate under deal with dogs. There are no laws about too many cats. You can have as many as you want. As long as they’re healthy and you’re feeding them, no one really has a cause of action. Right now, there isn’t any law that applies to cats.”

Wallace said he will likely assemble a team from the TNR (trap, neuter, return) volunteer program to collect the cats.

Schmitzer, who also serves as code enforcement officer, and building inspector Marty Johnson condemned the home, located between Van Vleet and Nichols roads, after finding it to be unfit for human occupancy.

“There are holes in the roof and foundation,” the chief said.

He said he called the Fire Department, which searched the house in full turn-out gear and self-contained breathing apparatus for their own protection from germs.

“We had to disinfect the gear when we got out,” Schmitzer said.

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