Huntingdon Borough Council held a special hearing in front of a large public audience Tuesday afternoon to determine the future of 1422 Oneida St., Huntingdon, where authorities removed dozens of abused and neglected cats Sept. 2.
After hearing multiple testimonies, it was decided the building is an emergency risk before council member Jim Bair put forward a motion to take immediate action to have the property razed, to which the council unanimously agreed.
To start the meeting, borough solicitor Rich Wilson stressed that, “We’re here solely to talk about the property, and those who believe they can assist council in determining a health risk to the public.”
Over 60 cats were removed from the house with the help of the Huntingdon County Humane Society, the Huntingdon Borough Police and Huntingdon Borough code enforcement.
The hearing began as Wilson read a letter form Dr. Richard Buza, who had been inside the building, concerning what he perceived as potential health risks.
“As far as the residence, it could remain a health issue for years to come. Cats are vectors for a number of disease, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis and ground worm infection to name a few. The ammonia from cat urine is toxic both for the respiratory system and the liver...prolonged exposure results in multiple health problems. I suspect demolition may be the best option in the long run,” wrote Buza.
Borough code enforcement officer Jim Morris also testified to the “deplorable conditions” of the building.
Cat feces, urine and hair was plastered throughout the house, including over the baseboards, steps, furniture and halfway up the walls.
There was also a fly and flea infestation.
“I was up there this morning and the smell was still horrific. In my opinion, I think it rises to the level of probably being razed,” Morris told council.
Morris said that when he first entered the property Aug. 20, with the property owner’s permission, he was literally taken aback.
“When I took one or two steps in, the smell was just horrific. You can’t describe it. It was pure ammonia. It actually made me take a step or two back. I was only in there for a few minutes. My eyes were just watery and irritated; fleas just wrapped around your body. Flies were everywhere,” he said.
Wilson asked him if cleaning the structure is a possibility.
“I believe cleaning is possible. If we’d like to go that route, the cleaning company would have to make sure the chemicals they use are appropriate. I think it could be a temporary solution, but we could have problems down the road,” said Morris.
Borough manager Chris Stevens said the borough already obtained estimates to both professionally clean and demolish the building.
“But the cleaning company said they could not give any guarantees there wouldn’t be issues later,” he added.
Huntingdon Police Chief Jeff Buckley noted that “an overwhelming smell of urine and feces is evident” at the property and is present for up to half a block away.
Sandi Dysard, whose mother lives at a neighboring property on Oneida Street, also spoke.
“This has been horrible for her because she’s not been able to sit on her porch because of the stench. I think council has no other choice but to demolish the property,” said Dysard. “On the other hand, I’d like to thank everyone for what they’ve done and that this has finally come to a head.”
Dysard said her mother started complaining about the property two years ago.
“And nothing was done until (Morris) took over and got us to where we are today,” she said.
Neither the property owner or legal counsel for the property owner were present at the hearing.
“I’ll draft an appropriate order, this order will be served on the property owner and demolition can be carried out forthwith,” concluded Wilson.
Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.