Hearing set for Tuesday in Lucca Street cat removal

A hearing has been scheduled for next week to hopefully divest the owner of nearly 50 cats of the animals and begin the process of adopting them out.

A probable cause hearing requested in Wayne County Municipal Court set up a hearing on Tuesday against Laurie Patterson, the owner of the cats that were removed from her home at 354 Lucca St.

The hearing will do two things. First, it will establish that the city had probable cause in removing the animals, which were found in unsanitary living conditions inside the home, and apparently inbreeding with each other.

And second, the hearing will seek to establish a bond she would need to put up to retain the animals. That bond figure would mirror the cost for the Wayne County Humane Society to house them as an outcome is decided.

Judge Timothy VanSickle is presiding over the hearing.

Members of the Wooster Police Department, Medway Drug Enforcement Agency and the humane society went to execute a search warrant Monday morning at the Lucca Street residence in the latest twist in a property maintenance case in Municipal Court against Patterson for allegations that “the property was littered with rubbish, garbage, filth and animal waste. It was apparent the cooking facilities had not been and were not useable,” according to an affidavit in the property maintenance case.

At the scene, Medway’s senior agent Jason Waddell said ammonia levels inside the home exceeded amounts found at meth labs. He later called the interior of the home “the worst house I have ever seen,” in his 17 years in law enforcement.

The home conditions were amplified too, as seemingly no one was living at the home (besides the animals). Patterson was deemed incompetent to stand trial and sent to Heartland Behavioral Health Center in Massillon on July 5, with the hopes of restoring her to competency.

A status update has been scheduled for Aug. 22 in the property maintenance case regarding Patterson’s competency.

Wooster Law Director Linda Applebaum said the city needed to “do this quickly” to allow the humane society the opportunity to adopt out the animals, otherwise they would be left housing and caring for them until the case is resolved.

The city has engaged with the law firm Holland and Muirden, based in Sharon Center, to help prosecute this case.

Applebaum added if no bond is ultimately put up for the animals, the city would move to obtain rights to the animals, thereby allowing the humane society to proceed with adopting them out.

Many of the cats were covered in fleas and some suffered injuries to their eyes and paws because of the unsanitary conditions.

Beverly Linhoss, president of the humane society’s board, said the organization is working with the city in this case and could not offer any additional information on the cats at the moment.

She did note that the humane society is receiving community support during this sudden influx of animals at its facility.

“We have received many inquiries this week asking how you can lend a hand following the cat seizure incident in Wooster. WCHS appreciates the outpouring of support,” stated a Facebook post from the WCHS.

Volunteers are needed to assist with cleaning dishes, litter pans and laundry. Donations also are welcome, specifically, kitten kibble, wet cat food (pate type), bleach, ammonia, laundry soap, trash bags and paper towels.

Monetary donations can be made at the WCHS website -- http://wchs.org/donate -- and volunteers are encouraged to contact the organization at 330-263-0152.

Reporter Steven F. Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or shuszai@the-daily-record.com. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.

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