staley

Dozens of cats in bad condition were removed from a house on Brophy Avenue in Bisbee on Thursday after the city obtained a search warrant for the house, which is owned by Ronald Staley.

BISBEE — One dead cat, some with matted eyes and at least 30 other felines were seized Thursday from a house in Old Bisbee that has been a nuisance to its neighbors for several years, city officials said Friday.

Over the last six years, Ronald Staley has been warned about the unlivable conditions at his house at 505 Brophy Ave. Each time, Staley would come into compliance, only to let the situation deteriorate once again, said Bisbee Building Inspector Joe Ward.

The situation came to a head in the last few days when Staley’s “cat colony,” as Ward called it, spiraled out of control with “cats running everywhere” and the odors emanating from Staley’s property wafting all the way down to Tombstone Canyon.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” Ward said in a phone interview Friday. “This has been going strong for about six years.”

Ward said the main issue at the Staley house was the hoarding of cats and no electrical power inside the residence. The situation was exacerbated by a lack of cleanliness.

Mayor Ken Budge said the felines were not cared for.

The odor emitted by the slew of neglected animals coupled with a house where there were very few, if any, hygienic practices plagued Staley’s neighbors for years, Ward said.

“You could smell it all the way down in Tombstone Canyon,” Ward said of Staley’s property. “The houses on that street are very close to each other.

“There were probably about 10 cats that got away from us. There were so many moving back and forth that it’s hard to tell how many were actually there.”

A police officer on scene last week asked Ward if he thought there were about 40 cats on Staley’s property, he said.

The animals were rescued by Bisbee police and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Unit.

The surviving felines were taken to the Bisbee Animal Shelter. On Friday, shelter director Rachel Dennis said only one of the 35 cats taken from the house is healthy. The rest are suffering with respiratory and neurological conditions, as well as the matted eye issue.

“We had to house them separately so that they won’t make our other cats sick,” Dennis said. “There were two kittens born overnight and three others are visibly pregnant.”

Dennis said Staley’s house reeked of feces and urine, which likely contributed to the cats’ issues. She said authorities had to enter the residence wearing respirators.

She also said the cats are considered “evidence” in the case against Staley and they cant be spayed, neutered or euthanized.

“We can give them medication,” she said.

Except for the newborns, it’s unclear whether any of the adult felines will be adoptable. Some are semi-feral and some are just too sick. Dennis said if Staley does not request a hearing with the city within the next 10 days, the cats will become the property of the animal shelter.

On Sept. 20, Ward sent a notice of violation to Staley.

“The undersigned code official has determined that the above referenced property is unsafe and unfit for human occupancy,” the notice states. “An inspection of the premises on September 14th, 2021 by the undersigned code official revealed that the structure lacks connection to a ‘sufficient or proper’ electrical system, causing this residence to become a threat to life or health. It was also determined that the structure is a nuisance to the community and dangerous to public safety.”

Last week Ward sent an email to Budge and city council members informing them of the dire conditions at Staley’s residence:

“There has been an ongoing issue with Mr Staley at 505 Brophy Ave regarding his ‘cat colony,’ very bad odors and dilapidation,” Ward’s email says. “This has come to a point where he removed his electrical service and was running an electrical generator for power. The attached Notice of Violation was served on him last Wednesday along with a uninhabitable placard for the property.

“With the help from our attorney and (police chief) Albert Echave I was granted a warrant to enter his property, inspect and take photos of the conditions. With BPD’s assistance, this was done on Friday. The inspection verified the strongly suspected International Property Maintenance Code violations of sanitary conditions and the uninhabitable condition.

“I hope to work with Mr Staley to abate the violations, increase the fire safety and pleasant environment of this neighborhood,” Ward wrote.

Ward said Staley has vacated the house and is working with Step Up Bisbee — a nonprofit organization — to bring the property back into compliance.

Anyone interested in donating to the Bisbee Animal Shelter for the care of the additional cats may do so at bisbeefriends.org or visit the shelter at 938 S. Tovreaville Road.