The Elgin house where dozens of dead cats and other animal carcasses were found this week had been on the city code enforcement office’s radar for years. The most recent visit to the property was recorded Tuesday, the day before a city contractor hired to cut the grass notified the city of a van parked in the backyard containing the decomposing animals.
In the six years since the first citation for weeds was written, code enforcement officials have visited the home numerous times and gained access inside the house on the 200 block of Villa Street. But each of the inspections failed to alert authorities to the horror that was uncovered Wednesday when authorities found 43 dead cats, birds, squirrels, opossums, a muskrat and other species in the van.
“We have been there in various capacities and have gone inside,” said Marc Mylott, director of community development. “Our purview is generally limited to what we can see from the street, but there were instances in the past where we have gone inside and found that the conditions were not as bad as suspected. It was not something that required condemnation and there were certainly no instances seen of animal cruelty.”
If a code enforcement officer suspects something is amiss inside a home, Mylott said the office can apply for an administrative search warrant from a county judge to enter the premises. The issuance of an administrative search warrant is dependent on the availability of a judge.
“We don’t have the authority to just barge in,” Mylott said.
William Tinkler, 60, who rents the home, is due in court Nov. 2 on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. He told authorities he put the animals in the van because of a desire to preserve them.
Though neighbors said in interviews with the Daily Herald that they could not open their windows during the summer because of the stench coming from the house, city authorities said no one formally complained about the smell, and code enforcement had no reason to believe anything was wrong inside the house.
On Monday, the city secured a court order to repair and clean the exterior of the house after the home’s owner, Penny Knuth, failed to comply with the city’s order to repair a laundry list of damage to the home, including holes in the balcony roof, a deteriorated garage roof and peeling paint. The court order was independent of the interior condition of the house and animals on the property, Mylott said.
Code enforcement then wrote a citation on Tuesday for overgrown grass and weeds, according to documents from the city. Contractors went to the property Wednesday to clean up the yard. It was during that visit that a contractor discovered the white Ford van parked at the rear of the property. Police were then called to the property and were subsequently given permission to enter the home.
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said the code department took as much action as the law allowed.
“As soon as the city was able to move forward, we moved forward,” Kaptain said. “Within 48 hours, this was brought forward.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.