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Dozens of 'expired animals' found on troubled Harrisburg proper - abc27 WHTM

Dozens of 'expired animals' found on troubled Harrisburg property

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Strong odors of feline urine and deceased animals filled a Harrisburg neighborhood. Neighbors nearby are fed up with a neighbor who is described as an “extreme cat hoarder.”

"Oh my God!” yelled Julie Cope. “There's expired animals everywhere!” The self-described “cat lady” said she has been a feline vigilante for going on 20 years. Cope said she has been coming to 2021 Manada St. for more than a year trapping cats on what has become a troubled property according to neighbors.

"Some very sick kittens just into the basement,” Cope said. “Are they going to die in there? We don't know. We certainly can't save them out here."

Equipped with a red pickup truck, a handful of traps, and a catch-pole, Cope went into the yard of Donna Layton, 55, and picked up a disfigured and sick kitten.

“This one is all but dead,” she said. "Could be distemper. It could be feline infectious peritonitis, which comes from living in a feted, horrible, filthy environment. This thing is infested with fleas."

A yellow sign on Layton's door is date June 6, 2013 which reads “Unfit for Human Living." Instead, Layton now lives in a camper in her side yard according to neighbors. Steve Blackwell said he's been living across the street since the late 90s and Layton has lived in the home for about 10 years.

Only within the last few years he said did the cats get out of control.

"Urine smell is awful,” he said. “Cats try to attack my little dog. It's just too much."

It was easy to see that the 2000 block of Manada Street is overrun by feral cats, mostly coming from Layton's property.

"I’ve seen close to 60, 70 cats at a time in that yard," said Blackwell.

Gloria Skorija lives in a townhouse that is connected to Layton's home. She said the cat problem continue to grow.

"We counted 60, maybe 80 cats including the kittens,” she said. “They have litters every day now."

Like any animal, the need to find shelter is instinct. Skorjia said the cats have infiltrated her garage through holes they continue to create.

"It's hard to breathe,” she said. “A lot of time we go out to dinner because I can't stand the smell, I have to leave."

Skorija said even though Layton does not live in the house, dozens of cats still do. The smell seeps through the walls, especially in the basement where many cats are believed to live. Skorjia said she has called the city numerous times. According to court documents, has a civil lawsuit against Layton for her property complaints.

Blackwell said many of the neighbors have called the city to complain.

"We contacted codes -- all types of people with the city, “ Blackwell said. “And, nothing seems to happen."

Court documents show that Layton has been cited eight times since 2012. The latest came on Monday, a misdemeanor charge for codes violations. According Skorija, nothing has changed despite the citations.

“[The City] said they were going to get mental health to help her and she refused,” Skorija said. “[Layton] said there is no problem. There's nothing wrong with her, or with the house, the yard or the cats."

Cope said she has spoken with Layton several times and has permission to trap the cats. But, she feels the problem is epidemic in the neighborhood and city government needs to more than just write citations.

“Get a warrant, go in, and get these cats outta here," Cope suggested.

For the time being, Cope said she would do the best she could with the limited resources she has (out of her own pocket). Cope understands the city may also be tight on resources, but said that perhaps the state should get involved.

"I need help here” she yelled. “I can't do it all."

City Codes Director Dave Patton was asked about the situation and why the city has not done more to control the issue. He responded by email:

“We filed a misdemeanor charge, but it has not yet gotten to court. Since this is owner occupied it’s more difficult. She does not want the help offered and won’t let anyone in the property and of course we cannot simply enter and violate her 4th Amendment rights. She has been paying the non-traffic citations which brought us to the misdemeanor charge. I don’t want to see her in jail but am hoping this charge will help her understand the gravity of the situation. Since this [property is] occupied it’s more difficult. She does not want the help offered and won’t let anyone in the property and of course we cannot simply enter and violate her 4th amendment rights. She has been paying the non-traffic citations which brought us to the misdemeanor charge. I don’t want to see her in jail but am hoping this charge will help her understand the gravity of the situation.”

Cope said the time for cooperation is long overdue. She feels by the city not acting, the cats are causing harm to residents, themselves and other animals in the neighborhood.

"Any animal, any person -- you don't want to see debilitated things and this is really not cool,” Cope said. “This is bad."
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