Feral Cats, Blighted Home Cause Beach Concern

It’s a neighborhood nightmare. A blighted house creates visual pollution. There are health and fire hazards. Property values plummet.

Neighbors want to help. They worry about their health and homes, but they also care about the owner of the blighted house. They contact various agencies, which for a variety of reasons say they can’t act.

So — as desperate as they are — the neighbors won’t take the one step necessary to start the legal process in motion. Unwilling to cause an eviction — and not wanting to make waves — no one steps forward to make a formal complaint.

That’s the precarious situation with one home near the beach. It’s on Norwalk Avenue, off Soundview Drive.

The home is owned by a woman who seems to be a hoarder. It’s crammed with so much stuff and trash, it’s hard to see in. It’s also overrun by feral cats — up to 30, perhaps. They attack neighbors’ cats (clawing one in the eye, requiring expensive surgery).

The cats roam into yards up and down the street, occupying basements and crawl spaces of homes that were flooded and are awaiting teardown or renovation. One neighbor found 5 cats sleeping on her front porch. Fleas are rampant.

One of the cats climbs up into a neighbor's lawn ornament on Norwalk Avenue.

One of the cats climbs up into a neighbor’s lawn ornament on Norwalk Avenue.

Neighbors admit they are part of the problem. No one wants to sign a formal complaint.

Meanwhile, Westport’s blight law seems to apply only to abandoned houses. Neighbors say the health department has tried to help, but this seems out of their jurisdiction. Animal control has been called several times, but is not allowed to trap the cats or remove them. The Humane Society won’t take feral cats.

Homes near the beach sell quickly, for a couple of million dollars — at least. Yet at least one has been on the market for months. The hoarder/blight house seems to be a deal-breaker.

Still, no one will sign a formal complaint. No one wants to cause an eviction. They don’t want to be “that guy.”

At least one neighbor has offered to pay for his own landscaper to work on the hoarder/cat woman’s property. She refused.

“I am sensitive to (the Norwalk Avenue owner’s) plight,” a neighbor says. “I just want to do what is right for the cats, and for the neighborhood. I think we need to help her, not shame her or pepper her with violation tickets, which she won’t pay anyway. But it’s hard to know how to help.”

Meanwhile, the cats multiply.

The neighborhood waits. And worries.

14 responses to “Feral Cats, Blighted Home Cause Beach Concern

  1. I’m not sure I understand the purpose of this post. Looking for a volunteer to file a formal complaint? If so, what sort of complaint would it be, with whom would it be filed and what would be the consequences? Also, do you have to be a neighbor or can any of us do it?

  2. Check with Human Services at Town Hall. They may be able to provide helpful resources.
    Also, the Fire Department can evaluate the situation at the house. They have extensive experience with hoarding situations and safety.

  3. It continues to amaze me in a town like Westport that when neighbors contact what they think maybe the correct agency to provide assistance, the agency claims that they are powerless or it is out of their jurisdiction. Why do these agencies not help to evaluate the overall problem and provide the guidance and referral necessary to help the situation. Common sense would dictate that this is a person that needs Human Services and the Fire Department to assist as Patty Gabal outlined in her post above. It seems that this person might be a hazard to themselves and others unknowingly because they have an obvious problem properly caring for themselves. About 15 years ago we had a house on our block…effectively called the dog patch house. An old man had just let it go. You could not walk through his house because it was so cluttered. The septic system failed and collapsed and the main waste line rotted discharging….well whatever was put down the sink or toilets. Sometimes on a hot summer day it was intolerable, but one neighbor, Venora Ellis, stepped in and took control with favorable results. Sometimes, you just have to evaluate what is best for the surrounding neighbors as a whole at the same time being sensitive to the needs of the individuals.

  4. Dan, I dealt with a feral cat rescue person last year. I will look into
    whether or not she is still available.

  5. I believe a group called PAWS catches feral cats and neuters them. http://www.pawsct.org/

  6. PAWS provides humane traps for you to catch them. It used to be a $ 50.00
    deposit returned when you bring back the trap, which usually was given as a
    donation to their animal shelter.

  7. There has to be an agency that will trap feral cats and neuter them. In the small town where I used to live. They trap, neuter/spay them, put a small nick in their ear to show they’ve been neutered, then they are ‘rehomed’ as barn cats or on large farms. Humane Society is basically useless anyway. Feral cats will spread disease throughout all the cat population. They need to be dealt with.

  8. This is a problem that appears to have been long in the making and one that won’t be resolved overnight. People can’t be compelled to spay and neuter their cats that are “indoor/outdoor” cats which is how this problem started. While there are organizations that could humanely remove the cats, there has to be funding for the process of trapping, vetting (spay/neuter/vaccinations) and, if possible, relocating. Residents just putting out their own traps or contemplating other inhumane methods should note that they risk injury or illness to other residents’ pets and local wildlife – and, if I’m not mistaken, it is illegal. As far as funding for this “project”, I’m not sure who should be responsible. A few summers ago, a WASA (www.westportwasa.org) volunteer, per the request from the town, removed a mother cat and litter of kittens from the yard of a Westport resident. At the end of the day, once all were vetted and boarded, as we don’t have cat fosters available, until they found their forever homes, WASA spent close to $3,800. We were not compensated in any way by the town or the resident. We are a small group that can’t take on this project, particularly with the responsibility we have – and honor gladly – to the impounded dogs of Westport Animal Control.

  9. Marcy Anson Fralick

    Feral cats are a problem in many places, beautiful Maui for one. Here in Tucson, feral cats are an issue, too. Once the cats become feral and roam the streets, they become a hazard to people and other animals as they become diseased (no vaccinations), attack pets, native bird populations, and leave droppings in yards, playgrounds and other places where children may come in contact with them. Once the feral population gets to a certain point, it’s almost impossible to control. We have several agencies here in Tucson (FACT–Friends of Alley Cats, Desert Wildlife Services, and others) that work on finding, neutering, vaccinating and releasing feral cats as barn or ranch cats outside the city, or fostering them until they’re ready to be adopted into families. As for the woman, what about Adult Social Services? In most cities, their local Human Services department that oversees child welfare, like Children and Family Services will have an Elder Abuse and Prevention or Elder Care program where caseworkers can visit this woman and assess her mental and physical abilities as well as her safety in the home, much as they would when responding to Child Abuse charges. Can anyone track down a family member? In this day and age of Google, Spokeo, PeopleFinders, etc., there should be a way to find family and let them know about the situation. The local Fire Department can also do a health and safety check of the home, and assess it as far as a) can they enter safely if she needs a fire or medical response and evacuation; b) are the floors sturdy, the plumbing working, the electrical working, etc. or are these a fire hazard; and c) is the house structurally sound. Anyone can file an anonymous complaint with the Department of Family Serivices Elder Care division, just like they can with child abuse complaints either by phone, email or snail mail. The Fire Department in most cities will do free home safety inspections (smoke detectors, ease of entrance to the home, etc.), and there may be agencies or groups outside of Westport who will help allieviate the feral cat situation, There can be a good outcome to this and it can start with anonymous reporting.

  10. Town department heads do care. Dealing with Town/State regulations that
    protect home owners privacy and a home owner who is resistant to help.
    I believe we will see help. If you have data, give it to Steve Smith, Building Dept. 203 341 5026. The Humane Society is suffering from lack of funds. Note the hours that they have cut. My property touches on the property in question. Last Sunday morning, my little orange male cat was attacked by one of the strays in my yard and my cat’s cornea was cut deeply, a very painful wound. Grateful for Cornell Vet Specialists in Stamford: 24/7. Not free.
    A week of visiting vets, giving medications to a cat in pain, and concern if
    he would ever have 2 eyes. And $2000 on the credit card.

  11. A house in my neighborhood that is occupied was cited for “blight” and remedied; I’m not sure if the “occupied” distinction always pertains.

  12. Isabelle Breen

    The town is in the process of forming ( or already has) a Hoarding Committee
    http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/hoarding_task_force_hears_from_state_expert/

    It includes Fire, Health, Human Services and other representatives. Try calling Health Dept. for more specific info on how to process. And since feral cats are not ‘owned’ she cannot be cited for animal abuse. But cleaning up the property would disturb them, causing them to move elsewhere at least, perhaps into smaller enclaves, being less dangerous.