A Baltimore County judge yesterday ordered that all of Gloria Wilson's cats be removed from her heavily damaged Lansdowne rowhouse and told the county to conduct a safety inspection of the home and provide Mrs. Wilson with social services.
Mrs. Wilson, 67, originally had 45 cats and two dogs in her tiny two-story home. Eleven cats have been adopted since her plight came to public attention last month.
But Mrs. Wilson, who has been living on her tarpaulin-covered front porch with her 47-year old son since March, was angry with District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. for ordering her cats removed to the county animal shelter.
"My cats are going to die," she said as she left the Towson courtroom. "And they won't be the only ones!"
Mrs. Wilson also resisted entreaties from Sharon G. Rose, a social services supervisor, to let the county find her a place to live until the status of her Bigley Avenue home is decided. She said she can't leave her two dogs, one of which is blind. "My dogs are my life," she said.
Judge Russell found Mrs. Wilson guilty of four counts of violating a county nuisance law because of odors and cockroaches in her house. But he withheld judgment on a 30-day sentence to give county agencies a chance to help her.
He warned Mrs. Wilson that if she does not cooperate in removing the cats and allowing inspectors in her home, she will be sent to the county Detention Center.
Building inspectors normally may not enter owner-occupied homes unless invited in by the owners.
Mrs. Wilson refused to allow inspectors into her water-damaged home over the summer. She said yesterday she had sought help with repairing the leaky roof for two years, but was refused by all county agencies because her Social Security income was a few dollars too high. "They told me I made too much money," she said.
Last spring, the kitchen ceiling collapsed. Mrs. Wilson turned off the electricity and moved to the porch to prevent a chance of a fire, and her cats took over the house. A sanitarian who did get inside briefly said cockroaches, cat feces and urine were everywhere, and that the entire first floor was wet. Mrs. Wilson, who suffers from heart problems, diabetes and ulcerated legs, said she got no help from the county until Deborah Williams became involved.
Ms. Williams, a special education teacher, has found a roofer, an electrician and a drywall installer to work on the house. She got veterinarians to donate time and materials to vaccinate the cats, get licenses for them and neuter the males. She is also trying to find homes for them.
The judge denied a request to remove the cats to private shelters and rejected Mrs. Wilson's proposal to keep five cats after listening to three hours of testimony about how the problem has grown over several years.
A month ago, members of a family living next door to Mrs. Wilson were forced to abandon their rental home when sewage water leaked through the wall. The housing inspector condemned the rental home, but could do nothing about Mrs. Wilson's house since it was owner-occupied.