LONGVIEW, Wash. - Dozens of cats being kept behind a home is causing a stink and neighbors say the homeowner is now breaking the law.
Kathy Perket's compassion for cats has turned into a mess for neighbors and those neighbors want the city to crack down on what they say is cat care that's out of control.
Cowlitz County Animal Control officers found 34 cats in Perket's backyard enclosure. Her next door neighbor, Emilew Boe, hates the smell and the appearance.
"And now it has gotten so large, it is going to affect our – it is affecting our property values," Boe said.
"It's definitely a very serious problem that we would like to see dealt with," said Laura Roth, who lives nearby.
Perket calls her backyard her "cat haven." When she was interviewed by KATU News in August 2010, it already held 22 cats.
"It's my life's work, my life's passion. It's what I've chosen to do with the money that I have and the life that I have left. It belongs to the cats," she said at the time.
But a separate case of cat hoarding in a Longview mobile home last year convinced Longview's City Council it needed an ordinance limiting the number of pets people could keep at home.
"If we had like a kennel ordinance, we could regulate the number of cats and how they are kept to reduce the impacts to neighbors," said John Brickey, director of Longview Community Development.
The new law took effect in August. Perket's cat haven doesn't meet the new restrictions.
"Get some control over it and clean it up," said Boe. "Force her to follow the ordinance."
If Perket doesn't cooperate with the city and refuses to move the structures, she could face misdemeanor criminal charges.
City Councilor Ken Botero wouldn't comment Wednesday on the situation other than to say officials are working on it.
Perket sent KATU News the below statement Wednesday night defending the structure. She also said the cats are being well taken care of.
I built this enclosure in 2008. It was fully permitted by the city. For two years there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. People came over and looked at it. It was a nice friendly neighborhood. Then, things changed. Attitudes toward us changed. I have had many city officials come visit at my invitation and they have all said there is nothing wrong with what I have built, what I have done with what I am doing. Up to this point when they passed the ordinance, rescuers in Longview were proud of what they were doing. Now it punishes rescuers just as it punishes people who hoard, abuse and neglect animals it makes them want to hide in fear.
When I built this enclosure, I spent many thousands of dollars because I wanted to help animals.
I wanted to protect cats form neighbors and neighbors from the cats.
We have achieved that.
These cats give us joy, give us purpose.
Because of some differences of opinions between neighbors we became targets of harassment and we have lived under this harassment for two years.
It has not been fun.
The city knows and understands what is happening.
I believe the city wants to make this a fair ordinance for everyone.
Our goal is to make lives happier and safer and this ordinance does not allow for that.
We have to try to protect the animals from the very city that wants the animals rescued.
I have been speaking with the city and waiting for word back from them.
I am in a holding pattern.
Can't just pick up and move an enclosure thirty feet overnight.
I am the guinea pig and they are focusing on me when they should be focusing on people who hoard and abuse animals.
My cats are so well cared for, so fat and happy and loved.