Thursday, September 16, 2010

Animal hoarding case shocks neighbors

By Alexis Stevens

They sometimes heard screams and lately had noticed a peculiar smell.

But neighbors said they had no idea more than 130 animals were living in a Cherokee County home -- until animal control investigators arrived in the Sugar Mill Lane cul-de-sac Tuesday night.

"Officers with flashlights were looking in the backyard, and they had opened up the basement and windows," neighbor Terri Smith told the AJC. “I cannot even begin to tell you the stench. It was sickening. We had no idea what they were going to find."

Inside, officials found 114 live cats and 23 dogs, Chief Marshal Ray Waters said. The bodies of 23 dead cats and 1 dead dog were also found in the home, he said.

"We knew she had five dogs," Smith said. "That's what she told us and other neighbors."

The Cherokee County case this week is at least the third in a month involving filthy homes, and animals and children living in squalor. Late last week, a Cobb County couple was arrested after police found dead animals and feces in a home where two children also lived.

Charges are forthcoming in the Cherokee case, pending vet reports on each animal, Waters said Thursday afternoon. The surviving animals are being housed at the Cherokee County Animal Shelter, he said.

Address records show the home is owned by 43-year-old Sharian Cahill.

"I just don't understand how it can go that far," another neighbor, Randy McDonald, told the AJC.

McDonald said he and his son had noticed a smell in recent weeks.

"I thought it was from a chicken farm," McDonald said.

In Cobb County, police charged a man and women with felony child cruelty after discovering dead dogs, feces, garbage, mold and insects infesting their home Sept. 9.

An anonymous tip led police to the Mableton home of 27-year-old Christian and 31-year-old Ruth Swanson. They face two counts each of felony child cruelty and cruelty to animals, according to jail records.

Officers found maggots, half-eaten food and two decomposing dogs in two bedrooms near where two young children routinely play, according to arrest warrants. The dogs appeared to have been dead for several months, officers said.

"Inside the sink and restroom area insect larva was found," the warrants state. "The refrigerator was full of old, expired and inedible food. Feces were found inside the bathing area."

The children, two girls, have been placed in protective custody. A phone number listed for Christian Swanson was disconnected Wednesday.

The Swansons were arrested Sept. 9 and released several hours later on $50,000 bond each, according to jail records..." More

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