Alleged animal hoarder kept dozens of cats in deplorable conditions

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

More than a dozen cats were rescued from an alleged animal hoarding situation in Mesa on Monday.

Maricopa and Mesa Animal Control picked up the 15 cats from a condo at the Bridgewood Townhomes near 8th Avenue and Dobson Road. Neighbors say the stench near the unit had been horrible.

In fact, it was the neighbors who first alerted authorities to the situation. They say conditions at the home were so bad, they kicked in a window so that the cats would have a way out.

But the last straw came when the neighbors reported was that the cats were actually eating each other. "Kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," says neighbor Raelene Winter. "I came around the corner the other day and a couple of cats were feeding on one of their siblings because they had no food. They were actually eating the cats. Yeah, eating each other."

When animal control officers pulled the animals from the home, flies could be seen circling around the unit, and filth was smeared on the condo's windows.

"We called Maricopa Animal Control. We called Mesa Animal Control. We've called Sheriff Joe's hotline. We've called everybody," Winter says. "Unfortunately it just takes so much. There is so much bureaucracy."

So Winter says she took matters into her own hands. She took the partially devoured corpse of one of the cats, tracked down the man who owns the town house, and confronted him with the grisly evidence.

After the confrontation, Winter says the owner agreed to allow Mesa Animal Control to come and collect the 15 cats at the property.

Winter also contacted the media, hoping that with exposure, this inhumane problem will finally be stopped. "It has been really gut-wrenching to watch these cats live in this existence," she says. "No animal or human deserves it. It's the saddest thing ever."