WEST POINT — The odor of animal urine and other bodily functions could be smelled yards away from the house located in the 100 block of Lower Lovelace Road in West Point before animal control officers ever reached the front door.
Chris Bussey, animal service supervisor at LaGrange Animal Control, immediately found out why the stench permeated the air when he stepped inside the home.
He was called to the scene, along with the Deputy Marshal’s Office, after the Troup County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint about the owners possibly having too many animals living inside.
“We were told to bring a lot of crates with us,” said Bussey. “Then I spoke with the homeowner. He said there were 20 to 30 cats inside the house. But once I was inside the house, I could tell there was more than what he said.
“I knew it was going to be bad … all you could see was cat feces throughout the house and the smell,” Bussey continued.
He and other law enforcement officers became physically ill from the strong odor emanating from the home.
Animal service officer Billy Mann has only worked at LaGrange Animal Control for a year. This was his first case of animal hoarding.
“It was shocking,” he said.
“His face was getting pale … he was starting to sweat … you could see he was just taking it all in,” said Bussey.
There were 47 cats found inside the house and 11 dogs discovered in the home and around the property, stated Bussey. A total of 58 animals lived in the residence with the couple.
All the animals were alive, though the majority of them had major medical issues, Bussey said. He called back to the shelter at 10 a.m. and told Mann to shut down the facility for the day. It is the first time LaGrange Animal Control has ever done that, Bussey stated.
“We’ve never had to shut the shelter down for a large scale impoundment,” he said. “This is also the largest impoundment of animals that I’ve ever worked since I’ve been here.”
It took animal control officers and deputy marshals almost five hours to capture all the animals.
Three dogs and all 47 cats were euthanized.
“They (cats) had upper respiratory issues. Their eyes were matted shut and some had hair loss,” explained Bussey. “A lot of the cats were feral and had never been touched … the dogs were euthanized due to aggression. “
Two dogs were given back to the owner’s daughter. The daughter, who lived in Columbus, told Bussey and deputy marshals she did not realize her parents were living in those conditions.
The other six dogs will be placed up for adoption in a week or two at the LaGrange Animal Shelter. The animals have some anxiety issues and are being re-acclimated to people, Bussey said.
The couple was charged with one count of cruelty to animals, which is a misdemeanor.
Chief Lonza Edmondson of the Troup County Marshal’s Department said the homeowners were only given one count because they willingly signed over all the animals to the agency.
One homeowner told Bussey he became “overwhelmed with all the animals.”
Anyone who may be overwhelmed with animals of their own or know someone who is can call LaGrange Animal Control at 706-298-3606. Employees will come to the house and pick up the animals.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.