Agent finds house full of dead, starving cats

A prosecutor says the city lacks resources and expertise to rescue the animals.
YOUNGSTOWN -- With the Animal Charity humane agent unable to act, city and county officials had to look elsewhere to deal with a South Side house filled with dead and starving cats, a deputy dog warden says.
"I got a call about a pit bull trying to come out of the house and when I got there, the smell from the driveway was unbelievable," Deputy Dog Warden Dave Nelson said today. "Neighbors said the woman who lived there died a month or more ago and the son has been despondent."
The house at 1317 Douglas Ave. is owned by S.E. and L.J. Travis Jr., records show.
Nelson, who was first at the house Thursday, said he found no loose pit bull. When he looked in a window, however, he saw a bed covered with feces and dead and dying cats everywhere. After hearing moaning, he called for the fire department to make entry, thinking someone was injured inside.
No humans were found but Nelson estimated 40 starving cats and an untold number of dead ones were discovered when he and firefighters entered with breathing equipment. The animals clinging to life were diseased, he said.
Who handles case?
Nelson said today that the task of dealing with abuse conditions such as those at 1317 Douglas is handled by a humane agent with Animal Charity, a job he held before joining the Mahoning County Dog Warden's Office. The deputy dog warden said the man now at Animal Charity has yet to be completely certified for the task, which includes being able to remove neglected animals and prosecute animal cruelty cases.
Jennifer Houser, Animal Charity program director, said today that Jason Osborne is not a humane agent yet but is in the process of becoming one. She said Animal Charity will assist police and the dog warden in any way it can but could not enter the Douglas Avenue house to rescue the animals at this time.
Without Animal Charity, Nelson said he would attempt to get a veterinarian or vet technician -- possibly from a local shelter -- to go to the house to euthanize the animals. He said he would assist on his own time.
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said today that the city attempted to secure the services of the dog warden's office but to no avail. He said Osborne is certified except for a 20-hour course.
"Our hands are tied as to the recovery of the animals simply because the city has neither the resources nor expertise," Macejko said. "It does, however pose a significant public health problem aside from the moral obligation to these animals."
Macejko said he is considering criminal charges against the resident, Leslie J. Travis III.

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