More than 40 cats have been removed from a home on Savannah's eastside - three of them dead - after a couple was evicted and, police say, left the cats behind.
Evans Bolin and Melissa Pope were renting the house in the 1300 block of E 60th St. They've been cited with 186 city ordinance violations - including animal neglect and abandonment.
A Savannah-Chatham Animal Control officer who investigated the case, Christina Sutherlin, said it all started with just one cat - Bella. Bolin and Pope adopted her and never got her spayed. Sutherlin said Bella gave birth to 11 liters in just four years.
"It's the best intentions that just overwhelm," she said. "And they really feel they did the best they could by these animals without knowing the options."
Scott Sheib owns the house - which now has an estimated $12,000 in damage - damage he says his insurance company isn't covering.
Citing customer privacy, that insurance company declined to comment for this story.
"I'm going to lose my home just because I rented to the wrong person, so what can I do?" he said. "The cops and the courts are not going to do anything, because if I sue them, they're not going to give me any money. He's not going to give me any money. The insurance company ain't going to fix it, so I'm stuck."
Pam Edwards, a Savannah Landlord and Real Estate Association board member, says the easiest solution for problems like these is regular property inspections. She said landlords have the right for such inspections with as much notice to the tenant as is outlined in the least - typically 24 hours.
"I think it's their right to go in and look at the property," she said. "They own it. They have someone who manages or they manage it themselves. They need to go in and check. Ninety-nine percent of the time, people are not offended or upset."
Tenants with pets also have resources - insurance policies that will cover damage to rented properties.
As for the cats pulled from Bolin and Pope's home, they're recovering. The veterinarian treating them says they're a little thin and have some respiratory problems. But overall, they're doing surprisingly well, according to Animal Control veterinarian Beth Martin.
"I think not having a clean, sanitary area to lay down, I'm sure the house was an open litter box," Martin said.
Bolin and Pope are scheduled to appear in Recorder's Court at 10 a.m. Feb. 25.