Cat hoarding bill goes to DA’s office

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — A cat hoarding case that cost the town more than $25,000 is now in the hands of the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

“The District Attorney is looking at a number of ways to pursue the case, to try to get repayment to the town for rescuing the cats,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said.

Morton updated the Casco Board of Selectmen on the cat hoarding issue during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Morton provided a little history of the case, which occurred in the summer of 2012 following a welfare check at a residence off Burgess Road.

“When we discovered that the house had 70 some cats in it and that it was unsafe to go in without protective clothing and a breathing apparatus,” town officials stepped into the picture, Morton said.

“Georgette Sanders, at the time, was concerned about the cats. She indicated if the town were to rescue and were to care for them,” she would foot the bill, he said.

“The town made an extraordinary effort to rescue and rehabilitate the cats,” Morton said.

Consequently, those costs approached between $25,000 and $30,000, he said.

“Since that time, the owner of the property has ignored the efforts of the town to collect the money she offered,” he said.

Sanders, who was formerly known as Georgette Burgess, has disregarded all requests to help pay the outstanding debt.

The only way that the Town of Casco can successfully attempt to receive reimbursement for the rescue of multiple felines is to levy criminal actions against the property owner, Morton said.

Other avenues are simply dead-ends or would cost the town additional money.

“There is no ability to put a lien on the property or seize the property. The town could go through a civil process, but it couldn’t begin to approach the amount of money that was due,” he said.

Morton had consulted with the town attorney about the latter option.

Chairman Grant Plummer spoke for a moment, saying that Sanders’ actions and lack of cooperation with arranging some sort of payment has put the town in the position it now faces.

“It is difficult to sit here tonight and discuss this, because we all did not want to be sitting here and discussing this,” he said.

“We have tried and tried to get her to understand that the last thing we wanted to happen was a criminal action against her. But, she walked herself to this point,” Plummer concluded.

Earlier, while the agenda item was being discussed, Plummer said, “Most of us know Georgette Burgess Sanders. The town did take extraordinary measures because we knew her and because she was a longtime member of our community.”

“We were just doing a good faith agreement,” he said.

“This is all part of another expense to the town. Once the cat issue ended, our safety group said the house was by no means fit for living. That ended up being a demolition of dangerous buildings that the town took on,” he said.

“The fact that she picked four cats that she wanted to keep — that took some thought process. She had the ability to say, ‘I want this one, this one and that one.’ She couldn’t catch them; someone else had to,” he said, explaining that other residents and animal control authorities treated Sanders respectfully throughout the ordeal.

“We are going to request the full amount owed. That is all we can do as a town,” Plummer said.

Selectman Holly Hancock spoke very briefly.

“I think the town acted in a humanitarian manner. Mrs. Sanders had legal counsel at the time of the decision. The town treated her with respect and worked with her legal counsel,” she said.

“Based on those two factors, proceeding with legal action is the route to take,” she said.

According to Morton, Sanders dropped the legal counsel she had two years ago and she has recently hired a criminal defense lawyer, and investigators have sorted through public records regarding the case.

“Through criminal prosecution, the judge can require all costs to be reimbursed to the town,” he said.

“The judge is amazed what the town did for the cats. There could have been justification to euthanize the cats, to simply dispose of them. But, at the request of the property owner, we went through extraordinary steps to rescue the cats,” Morton said.



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