Home filled with animals, but no laws found broken

Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert This rental property on McCoy Avenue in St. Clair Township houses not only resident Sue Ann Darcy but her collection of animals, which includes a goat, sheep, peacocks, chickens and ducks.

CALCUTTA — Police and the county dog warden responded Monday to a St. Clair Township home where a neighbor had reported Sunday night seeing a goat peeking from a window inside the residence, and what they found was a houseful of livestock.

The home at 49648 McCoy Ave. is owned by Wilbur T. Krafft, who lives at an adjacent property, and is occupied by his tenant Sue Ann Darcy.

When county dog warden Heidi Pecorelli and assistant dog warden Amy L. Dowd arrived along with police officers, they found not only the goat living inside with Darcy but two sheep, three peacocks, a pheasant, a dog, multiple cats, 20 to 30 ducklings — including a dead one — and a couple hundred chickens.

Patrolman Jim Briggs said, “There is no ventilation; there are no windows open. It’s horrible inside.”

Darcy would not let police officers inside her home but did allow Pecorelli and Dowd in, with Pecorelli saying, “I dealt with her before in Wellsville (when she was the village’s animal control officer). I seized 40 cats from her.”

Dowd said they found inside Darcy’s home on McCoy Avenue to be in “deplorable condition, a typical hoarder situation.”

Briggs said the chickens were pecking on the windows, saying, “They want out,” adding that Darcy told them she had just moved into the rental home in December and had not had time to fence in the property for her animals.

Dowd said her landlord “allows it,” referring to her living with her animals indoors.

The county prosecutor was called as was the county health department, which sent a representative to the scene. He advised the dog wardens and police that his office is required to give a person a two-week notice before action can be taken, with Pecorelli saying, “They’ll be dead in two weeks,” referring to the animals.

He told her the health department has no jurisdiction inside a person’s home, saying, “Everybody has the right to live the way they want to. Everybody has rights. We can’t just go knocking on people’s doors and say, ‘We’re going to condemn your home,'” he advised.

According to the health department representative, he comes to the scene of such complaints to determine if a complaint is justified, saying, “About half of them are not justified.”

“If you want to live inside your house that way, you have that right as an American,” he said, adding that he, too, is an animal lover.

“You make that choice, the animals don’t,” Dowd replied.

Dowd and the police officers tried to appeal to Darcy, telling her it is a health hazard to her as well as the animals to live in those conditions, with Dowd telling her, “This is not OK they way they’re living,” and promising Darcy they would take her animals to sanctuary with people for whom they would vouch personally for good care until she gets set up to care for them properly.

Krafft arrived on the scene and told the officials, “Think about this: It’s only been nice for a week and a half. She was living in a bad place (before moving to his rental). I’m an animal lover.”

Pecorelli, Dowd and Detective Greg Smith accompanied Krafft to his neighboring property to determine if he had room to accept some of Darcy’s menagerie and determined that he did, other than the high number of chickens.

While they were gone, Briggs told Darcy, “An animal is an animal, and it’s sad, but we care about your welfare. We’re looking after your welfare as well as the welfare of these animals. Your living conditions are very poor.”

Darcy told Briggs, “Give me another three months and you won’t recognize this place.”

It was decided that Krafft would house the peacocks, goat and sheep, while the chickens would be placed with a local family since Krafft does not have adequate space to comfortably house them, with Smith advising Darcy, “If you change your mind, I don’t want to charge you, but I will.”

She indicated the arrangement met her approval, however, a couple hours later as Pecorelli, Dowd, police officers and the woman who had agreed to re-home the chickens arrived, they were met by attorney Tom Fannin, representing Darcy, who apparently had a change of heart about relinquishing her animals.

After considerable discussion between all parties, and a brief stop inside the house by Fannin, he reported that Darcy was going to place her animals with Krafft, including all the chickens, with a plan of moving a barn onto her property in the near future for her animals.

“I don’t think we need to be too worried about it,” Fannin said, saying that, after the neighbor called to report seeing the goat, “Everyone descended on (Darcy).”

Visibly unhappy with the decision, Pecorelli and Dowd said Darcy had moved just one animal from her house to Krafft’s property in the brief interlude between their original agreement and when they returned to retrieve the chickens, expressing doubt she is physically capable of moving all of them to his property.

They loaded up the crates and left her property without any of the animals.

jgilbert@mojonews.com

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