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Cat hoarding: Tale of 2 cities | News

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Cat hoarding: Tale of 2 cities
Photo credit: City of Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Two women are in the same situation, but dealing with very different consequences. Both women were caught hoarding more than 100 cats. In both cases, most of the cats were so sick they had to be put down.

While one woman is facing criminal charges, the other got a house cleaning and is being put up in temporary housing. The difference between the two women has to do with where they live.

In both cases, neighbors and animal control describe the homes as a health hazard, with no air conditioning and limited water and food for the pets. Yet, when it comes time to file charges of cruelty, one has yet to see a judge.

In the middle of summer, it was well above 100 degrees inside the North Las Vegas home of Nathalie Back at 824 Harp Way. Animal control officers received complaints saying there were dozens of cats inside.

"The mere smell of ammonia and the ammonia levels in the home were through the roof," said North Las Vegas Police Sgt. Chrissie Coon. "On top of that, the mere fact that there wasn't enough food, or even water."

Officers expected to find maybe 30 cats, instead they found more than 100 cats and one dog.

"The majority of those animals had to be put down because they were just sick from the mere conditions of the home."

Beck has been charged with cruelty to animals.

The city attorney says Beck left the pets without a "sufficient supply of good and wholesome air"... "running water" ...  and surrounded by "pet urine and feces."

Officers also found "several sick kittens commingling with other cats."

"There's no possible way those animals can be cared for properly," Sgt. Coon said.

It was a very similar situation in Las Vegas in June at 1417 Lucaccini Lane.

"It's been torture. I found out about a month after I moved in, there was a woman next door hoarding cats," said neighbor Cindy Miller. 

"I'm worried about my property, worried about the contamination in all of the yards," said Cynthia Snodgrass, another neighbor.

City of Las Vegas Animal Control officers were sent to scope out the situation and found a "health hazard." Code enforcement reports show on June 5, the city told the owner "to stop feeding all feral cats." On June 15, an "officer found the smell of animal waste coming from the north side yard." By July 3, code enforcement found there was no air conditioning and "cat urine and feces were covering almost all interior areas of the home."

They ordered the owner, Diane Dejong, to clean up the home and seek medical attention for the cats. Most were euthanized. Reports show Dejong did remove a lot of the damaged surfaces, but code enforcement reports say she needed help.

The city stepped in to start cleaning and paid $1,700 to help move Dejong and her daughter into temporary housing. City workers say a lien will eventually be placed on the home.

8 News NOW asked the city of Las Vegas why criminal charges haven't been filed like they were against the woman in North Las Vegas.

A spokesperson decided not to put the city attorney or Councilman Bob Beers on camera, but did release a statement.

"The city has been working with the homeowner, and a contractor has been hired and is currently working to remediate the issues."

Animal advocate Stacia Newman says there are reasons why the cases might be treated differently.

"Sometimes they see the situation perhaps that the person has a behavioral disorder or maybe some type of mental illness which they would handle it from case to case a little differently," said Newman who is with Nevada Political Action for Animals.

But police in North Las Vegas say mental illness plays no role in whether they move forward with charges. They say it would be a judge that might take mental illness into account.

North Las Vegas police told 8 News NOW, in each case of hoarding, its up to the city to prove in court the animals suffered.

They say, until the law is changed to make just the act of hoarding a crime, it will remain difficult for them or any jurisdiction to bring cruelty charges quickly.

In the meantime, the city of Las Vegas has yet to prosecute similar cases.

Photo credit: City of Las Vegas
Photo credit: City of Las Vegas

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