Man kept 77 cats ‘inches deep’ in their own faeces
A HOARDER who collected dozens of stray cats and kept them in squalid conditions at two different houses must pay the RSPCA more than $30,000 in vet and boarding costs.
Inspectors found the 77 cats and kittens living in mounds of their own faeces, suffering fleas and tapeworm, at houses in Redbank Plains and Gailes, an Ipswich court heard on Friday.
Magistrate Virginia Sturgess expressed her horror after viewing photographs of the conditions the cats were living in.
Qualified diesel fitter Michael John Grembowski, 54, from Gailes, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to 21 charges under animal welfare legislation including failing to provide appropriate living conditions, failing to properly supply water and food, and failing to treat their medical ailments.
RSPCA prosecutor Isabelle MacNicol said the offences were between October 27, 2019 and November 26, 2019 at Redbank Plains, involving 34 cats; and between January 14 and February 13 this year at Gailes involving another 43 cats.
The horrific situation was uncovered when the RSPCA received complaints in August 2019 that a woman had moved out of a Russell Drive house in Redbank Plains and left some cats there.
Inspectors began calling in but found no one, usually seeing seven or eight cats inside on the window sills, a build-up of flies, and the smell of urine.
The court heard a horrible odour in the backyard led inspectors last November to a dead and decomposing cat infested by maggots.
Inside the house were 36 cats roaming with a significant build-up of faeces.
Some of the cats were found to be underweight, suffering flea burden, dental disease, tapeworm, hair loss, and with flea allergy dermatitis.
Six of the cats were pregnant.
A search was started for the former resident Debbie Jensen.
Grembowski, her boyfriend, later contacted the inspector but gave a false name of 'Peter Straw'.
The RSPCA was told Ms Jensen had not been aware of all the cats living in her house.
The court heard she had broken her leg and moved out. Only seven of the cats were hers.
Grembowski accepted responsibility for the welfare issues, saying he had been looking after her house and that more and more stray cats arrived because he left the door open.
Inspectors went to Grembowski's house at Gailes after receiving a complaint of more than 20 cats living in a wire enclosure under the veranda.
The court heard he was not able to be interviewed until inspectors arrived with a warrant in February this year.
Inspectors found about 30 cats in a dark, damp and dirty enclosure that was full of urine and faeces.
The cats had access to four dirty trays and dirty water. One cat was suffering a bladder obstruction.
His dark and poorly ventilated garage had strong smells of urine and faeces, excessive numbers of flies, and held four cat pens with seven cats and four kittens.
Maggots were crawling under soiled toilet training pads.
Ms MacNicol said it was Grembowski who owned most of the cats, and who had taken responsibility for their welfare.
Defence lawyer Bradley Munt said Grembowski instructed that stray and feral cats began coming into his Gailes property, and he began putting them in a chicken coop.
"He tried to get someone to deal with the problem. He continued to trap them and everything got out of hand," Mr Munt said.
"They were left with a big mess. He is not proud of the situation.
"She (Ms Jensen) instructs she was horrified to find the state her house was in."
Ms Sturgess said the photos "are quite horrific … inches deep with faeces".
"Ownership of animals is a privilege and a responsibility. Not a right," Ms Sturgess said.
"It is downright cruel to keep them in filthy and disgusting conditions.
"Owning more than one or two cats is well beyond most people's ability to provide the needed standard of care.
"This quite frankly was cruel, barely an existence for them.
"The photos from (Redbank Plains) show a shocking state, running wild through the house. It was quite disgusting.
"It is not love of animals that led you to have this many animals. I have no explanation as to why you were collecting so many cats."
Grembowski was sentenced to a 12-month probation order, with no conviction recorded.
He was ordered to pay more than $30,000 in RSPCA costs, and is prohibited from having animals for five years.