Tonawanda News

March 9, 2013

Case pending for cat lady

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — There’s still no word from North Tonawanda police regarding the fate of a woman who apparently owns a home on Roncroff Drive in North Tonawanda, where 50 cats were found living in squalid conditions before being seized by the SPCA of Niagara.

SPCA Director Amy Lewis said the woman, who has not been named, went to SPCA headquarters on Wednesday and signed over possession of the cats. Out of the 50, one cat was found dead and another had a broken leg, while the the majority of them appear to be feral.

Police said they are continuing an investigation. The home, at 155 Roncroff Drive, has been boarded up and declared unfit to live in by a city code inspector.

Lewis said the homeowner told her this week that she attempted to surrender the animals in 2011 — a controversial time for the organization that has since revamped its leadership and policies.

“She was told there was a $20 mandatory fee to surrender each cat,” Lewis said. “Due to the fact she is on Social Security, she couldn’t pay it.”

Lewis, who initially pressed for a charge of cruelty to animals against the woman, said while there is a slim chance the SPCA would drop such requests, it will take the woman’s initial efforts to properly move the cats into consideration.

“I told her the likelihood of her getting off completely ... I don’t know if I’d consider that,” Lewis said. “But I’m not looking to hit her full force. She had reached out to the shelter and hit a wall.”

Lewis added that the policy has since been changed. The animals were first discovered inside the single-family home on March 1, when police officers and a building inspector entered the home covered in layers of cat excrement and urine. All of the animals are in the care of the SPCA and many will be ready for adoption in the coming weeks, Lewis said.

The homeowner told Lewis she is now staying in a motel, but had previously lived with a friend, who would take her to the Roncroff Drive home each day to give the animals food and water. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.