YOUNGSTOWN - The 422 Wesley Ave. home on the West Side does not look at first glance to have any major problems.
But looks can be deceiving.
A cleanup crew aired out the home on Wednesday after police were called and discovered a house full of garbage and cat feces and five cats upstairs. Cyndi Wolford, owner of Amdecon, a company that specializes in cleaning up crime scenes and other disasters and is based in Youngstown, found three more cats in the basement on Wednesday.
The scent of it all had seeped outside, police said.
Police are searching for the 25-year-old woman renting the home from a Georgia woman who said she had no idea what condition it was in.
Officers were called to the home Monday morning by a neighbor who complained about the cats coming and going at will. Police said they found a mess when they got inside. The house was tagged as unfit for habitation and a check showed that the utilities had been turned off for months.
Later in the day, the renter talked to a housing officer on the phone and said she was an alcoholic and could not take care of the cats, a police report states. She said she came back to the house several times and made arrangements with a neighbor to feed the cats.
The woman said she would come back to the home and sleep in her car in the drive sometimes.
On Tuesday, police went back to the home and found five cats upstairs. Of those cats, three died and two were taken for treatment.
The homeowner made arrangements for the cleanup crew to arrive Tuesday.
Fabian Pike, a humane agent with Animal Charity, said charges will be filed against the woman. He said the three cats that were found Wednesday were probably hiding in the basement when officers and humane agents returned to get the five Tuesday.
Dave Nelson, a dog warden with the Mahoning County Dog Warden's Office, said he is encountering more cases where people who abandon homes either leave their pets there or let them run loose.
Nelson said he tells people to make arrangements with a shelter or rescue group for their pets. He said often in the foreclosure process, it takes over a year before people are kicked out, yet they will wait until the last moment and dump their pets at the dog pound.