Just Before Six: Family pleads for help with feral cat problem

For one South Bend family, life on their street has become a nightmare. They say their neighbors are feeding stray cats and these animals are a constant nuisance. Turns out, the property in question has been a troublesome spot for the city before.

Vanessa Easterday said she has seen dozens of cats on her property since they moved in back in 2007. The cats are feral cats – not pets- many in poor health, according to Vanessa.

It has gotten to the point that they try to keep their young children inside of the house to avoid these animals.

Vanessa has been trying to get help to remedy the situation and now she hopes the city steps in.

When Vanessa and her husband Glen first saw the house on College Street, they knew they had found their home.

“We bought this house because we fell in love with it,” Vanessa said.
But, little by little trouble started creeping into the place they thought would be perfect for their growing family.

“There were many cats using our front yard and flower bed as a litter box,” Vanessa said.

She said that the cats were coming from her next door neighbor’s house and that she believes the neighbors had been feeding feral cats for years.

“We started contacting Animal Control – they told me to contact the humane society,” Vanessa said. “We were going back and forth. They were saying there’s nothing we can do, they are just wild cats.”

According to Vanessa, the cat feces was all over her backyard. Now, they worry about letting their daughter play outside.

Her dog picked up an infection from feline fecal matter. Then, it got worse.

“To have them bring that in and give it to me… thank goodness our daughter was not infected,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa and Glen talked to the couple next door, but the picture did not change.

She shared photos with Newscenter 16 of the problem. Cat after cat still littered around her house.

“It’s very frustrating,” Vanessa said. “We have been dealing with this for almost six years.”

After they reported their neighbors to animal control, tension escalated. Cameras went up next door pointed directly at Vanessa’s house.

Calls were made and letters were sent. Eventually, Vanessa got to know Brad Braydon from South Bend Animal Care and Control.

“Everybody is pretty much at their wit’s end because they don’t know what to do,” Braydon said. “These people won’t stop feeding the cats.”

The department found enough reason to get a warrant to inspect the property and check on the cats’ welfare.

“A few days before we went in, the Michiana Feral Cat Initiative got in there and cleaned up a lot,” Braydon said.

The Michiana Feral Cat Initiative took 48 cats from the home in 2011. Some of the cats had upper respiratory and eye infections. Many of the animals had flea allergies as well. Several of the kittens died.

The group went back to the house in 2012 and removed more than 50 cats. Some of the cats were having trouble breathing. Others had ruptured eyes that could not be saved, according to a spokesperson for the group.

The Michiana Feral Cat Initiative spent more than $6,000 on medical treatment for the cats that had been found inside the home.

“It was still riddled with urine, it stunk really bad,” Braydon said. “That was after they had gone in and cleaned up. It was in bad shape. Humans should not have been living there. And yet, they did and still are. I don't know how many cats are inside now.”

Braydon decided to take action. Newscenter 16 was with him as he set out to put capture cages in place. He hammered the cages into Vanessa’s lawn so they would not disappear like others did.

“At this point there is so much frustration, I decided it was time,” he said.

Vanessa looked on as the cages were set up.

“It’s just not home anymore,” she said. “We just want to be able to live in our house safely and comfortably. And, let our kids play in the yard.”

Braydon said this is the third year in a row that the situation has gotten out of hand at the property.

We talked to the homeowner there and he says they are just out to help the animals. They don’t want to see them killed – so he says they care for the strays.

We’ll have more on what he had to say Wednesday “Just Before Six.”
Plus, find out what the city is doing to deal with the situation.

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