Warrants: 4 dead cats removed from home of local animal advocate

Updated: May. 11, 2017 at 12:09 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Search warrants served at the home of a vocal animal advocate in Salisbury reveal a home full of feces, urine, dead animals and a neighborhood problem with rats caused by conditions at the home.

The warrants were served Wednesday afternoon at the home of Barbara Hart on Lincolnton Road.

When Master Deputy Patrick Schmeltzer of the Rowan Sheriff's Office went to the front door, he noted he could "smell the odor of urine, feces and dead animals coming from inside the residence."

In the backyard, there were several dogs. "Two of the dogs were malnourished and had maggots eating the hair and flesh on their skin," the warrant states. "There were at least three other dogs loose in the yard and appeared to be grossly overweight."

The warrant notes that there was "no food or fresh water for the dogs to eat or drink" and when an Animal Services investigator looked in the back door of the house he "could see large amounts of feces on the floor and could smell urine coming from inside the residence" and that he also could "smell the odor of dead and decaying animals."

PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Five dogs seized from home of local animal advocate in Salisbury

Eric Williams, an Animal Enforcement Officer with Rowan County Animal Services, noted in his application to conduct the search and seizure that there had been complaints lodged about the odor coming from the residence and possible animal cruelty.

The complaints had come from neighbors but also from the Board of Directors of Eaman Park Pool, which is located adjacent to Hart's backyard.

Williams saw three dogs in the backyard that he said "did not look to be in distress or in need of medical attention."  He also noted that "the only water I saw on the property for the dogs to drink was a small plastic kid's pool that had a small amount of dirty green water in it and was also full of leaves and sticks."

"There was a large brown dog, scratching itself uncontrollably, that has an extremely bad skin condition with large patches of fur missing and patches of thickened elephant skin and open wounds," Williams wrote. "The dog is also emitting an extremely foul odor. The dog is in need of medical attention."

Williams then noticed a second, smaller dog in the backyard. He described that dog as having matted fur. Williams recalled seeing that same dog during a visit to the house in June 2016, noting that at the time he told the homeowner to have the dog shaved, and saying that she did comply with those instructions.

Williams' report also includes complaints from a neighbor who told him that "she had witnessed at least sixteen cats in the house from the windows and when she asked the owner about it, she stated that there were many more than that in there."

Another neighbor expressed concern about the animals, telling investigators that "Mrs. Hart only comes by the house late at night a few nights a week and never stays there."

The neighborhood now has a rat problem, according to neighbors.  In his report, Williams wrote that "they see large rats coming in and out of Mrs. Hart's garage all the time."

Five dogs were taken from the property on Wednesday night, along with the remains of four cats that were found inside the house.

No charges have been filed in the case, but the investigation is ongoing.

The City of Salisbury Code Enforcement was also at the house on Wednesday.

"We inspected the property with the owner's consent and did find housing code issues," said City Public Information Officer Linda McElroy. "We have not issued a determination at this time on whether the house is habitable.  There is an enforcement process, that involves a hearing, before that determination is made based on Minimum Housing Standards."

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