HIGH POINT - Help is on the way for 65 cats living in deplorable conditions in a Highpoint Boulevard home.
Adam Lamb, director of animal care and medical services of the SPCA of Florida, said he will meet with Kristine Pacek, who owns the otherwise-vacant home at 8265 Highpoint Blvd. overrun with cats.
Lamb said the first step is meeting with Pacek and having her agree to sign over the cats to the SPCA. Then staff will work to clean up the house and provide food, water and clean litter for the cats. A veterinarian and vet tech will care for any cats who need immediate medical attention and staff will come up with a plan to remove the cats from the home permanently.
"I can't promise we'll get all of them out the first week and a half, there are a lot of things to take into consideration," Lamb said. Lamb's group is planning to work with local rescues as well.
"We'll do our best to save every animal in the house," Lamb said.
Neighbors say the cat population at 8265 Highpoint Blvd. has been increasing for the past three years. The smell of urine and feces overpowers the neighborhood, so much so residents say they prefer to not have guests over, and can't put their homes up for sale. The homeowner's association members maintain they have little enforcement power and believe the county should step in to help with the problem.
County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she received an email Tuesday about the cats from concerned High Point resident Nancy Whitney-Conway, and went to see for herself.
"I just felt so helpless looking at the cats through the window," Rowden said.
Rowden said she wants to "improve the quality of life" for High Point residents and help the cats find homes. She began working with Lamb Thursday, and also reached out to local groups, including the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, Hernando County Animal Services and PetLuv.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office recently gave Pacek an ultimatum: clean up and find suitable homes for the cats by the end of the month, or face an investigation.
Pacek moved out of the home in December, neighbors say, but left the cats behind, and returns every few days to give them food and water.
Pacek recently racked up $7,800 worth of citations, said sheriff's office spokeswoman Denise Moloney. Pacek received 65 citations on Jan. 28 for unlicensed animals, three for unrestrained animals found outside of the home and two for neglect due to the cats' fur falling out from fleas.
If Pacek finds homes for the animals, the fines could be dropped, Moloney said. If she doesn't care for or find the cats homes, they could be taken out.
"We're going to do what have to do to make sure those animals don't die ... If they were taken to Hernando County Animal Services, all would have been euthanized for no room," Moloney said, adding the shelter is at capacity.
Moloney said the sheriff's office decided to give Pacek time to find homes for the cats because they don't want to see the animals euthanized. According to Moloney, an animal control officer will be check on the house daily to make sure progress is being made.
"If that's not done we're going to explore options on reopening this case and putting criminal charges on her," Moloney said. "If she doesn't, we may not give her until the end of the month."
Hernando Today previously reported the health department is investigating a sanitary nuisance complaint at the home.