Heat led to removal of 41 animals from Berwyn home

July 10, 2012 (BERWYN, Ill.)

Police were alerted by neighbors when the heat wave hit, and the smell became overwhelming on East Avenue at 31st.

Authorities say they found the animals living in horrendous conditions and describe a hoarding situation at the house. Police say they originally found 33 cats and three dogs Monday living in feces and garbage. Five more cats were found Tuesday morning. All were taken to an animal hospital for a checkup.

The first complaint from neighbors came in about six months ago, but no one imagined the extent of the situation inside.

"I thank God for the neighbors helping the city of Berwyn with their eyes and ears helping us detect a problem because single-family residences have a different inspection requirement. Police departments and fire departments can't go in unless we're invited in," said Chief Denis O'Halloran, Berwyn Fire Dept. "Not only is it full of clutter, it's also full of animal feces. And it's a dangerous situation, not only for the occupancy but for our firefighters if there is a fire in it."

"I did declare the home uninhabitable yesterday based on the conditions of the inside. It's not just an animal hoarding situation, they're hoarders," said Chuck Lazzara, building director, city of Berwyn.

Lazzara says the family will not be able to get back into the house until it's clean and safe. He said he hopes to get a closer look inside the house Tuesday.

"It's not as simple as just cleaning up the house and telling them they can move back in. There's going to be some counseling necessary," he said.

Police say three people live in the home, including a teenage daughter. Authorities say all are physically healthy, but the Department of Children and Family Services has been called in to investigate.

"I'm surprised. I never thought it was this bad. I knew of a couple dogs, couple cats at the most. I've talked to her, very nice lady. She works at a shelter, an animal shelter," said Frank Feliciano.

The homeowner is being questioned by police. Charges could be filed.

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