BISBEE — A resident who city officials say was hoarding cats inside a house that had no electricity has been charged with animal cruelty after police found one dead kitten and more than 30 other felines in dismal conditions at the man’s property, reports show.
Ronald Staley has been charged with four counts of animal cruelty, one of the charges a felony, a police report shows. The charges will be forwarded to the Cochise County Attorney’s Office to determine if Staley will be prosecuted.
The charges against Staley are a culmination of six years worth of complaints from neighbors on Brophy Avenue who said the odors emanating from Staley’s house were unbearable.
After obtaining two search warrants in late September — one of them administrative, the other issued by a judge — police entered Staley’s house and found 33 sick cats, a dead kitten draped over a wall heater and the severed head of another feline, reports show.
Officers described the residence as dark and dank, with feces and urine in every room. Multiple cobwebs partially blocked the front door to the house.
One Bisbee police officer described the house as “horrible and disgusting.”
Another policeman said the smell inside the residence was so overpowering, he had to step in and out of the house several times.
The cats that were found alive suffered with either severe eye infections — many could not open their eyes — or respiratory and neurological issues. Some were trembling and others could not walk correctly, police said.
Earlier this month, Bisbee Building Inspector Joe Ward said Staley’s “cat colony” had spiraled out of control with “cats running everywhere.” He said the smell from Staley’s property wafted all the way down to Tombstone Canyon.
When city officials and police entered Staley’s house in late September, the conditions had deteriorated to the point at which Ward called it a “dangerous situation.”
Ward said Staley had been warned several times about the unlivable conditions at his house. Each time, Staley would come into compliance only to let the situation worsen.
The cats that survived were taken to the Bisbee Animal Shelter. On Friday, shelter director Rachel Dennis said Staley failed to meet a 10-day-deadline required to request a hearing and petition to get the animals returned.
That means the cats belong to the shelter and they can be spayed and neutered. Dennis said there are two healthy felines that will be put up for adoption soon. Others are being nursed back to health and likely will be available for new homes once they’re spayed and neutered. There are also a handful of cats that are not very friendly and those will be advertised for adoption as “barn cats.”
“They’ll be pest control basically,” Dennis said.
She said people who adopt barn cats are given a brief training on how to acclimate the animals before they become indoor-outdoor pets.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Brophy Avenue cats, whether it be for adoption or donating to their care, can call 520-432-6020.