Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Hernando woman moves out of house, but leaves behind as many as 65 cats

HIGH POINT — Kristine Pacek moved out of her little white mobile home in December, neighbors say, but her cats stayed behind.

Now the 1,400-square-foot structure on High Point Boulevard is the cats' domain. Perched on bookshelves, lounging on a feces-covered mattress, the felines — as many as 65 of them, authorities say — peer like prisoners through fly-covered window panes. The stench of cat urine hangs in the air.

"It's inhumane," said Pat Leber, who lives across the street. "They're living, breathing things."

Neighbors fed up with the situation have pleaded for help for more than two years. Now that officials at the highest level of county government have gotten wind of the situation, pressure on Pacek is mounting.

On Wednesday, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office gave the 39-year-old woman a deadline: Remove the cats by the end of the month or face the possibility of criminal charges such as animal neglect.

"We're giving her more time because we don't the want the animals to be euthanized," said sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney. "We're trying to find homes for them where they'll be taken care of."

Pacek is willing to give up the animals but doesn't want them killed, officials say. She didn't return a voice-mail message from the Tampa Bay Times.

The Sheriff's Office already has issued 65 citations, mostly for failing to register and vaccinate the cats, and a few for signs of neglect. Pacek, who still owns the home, comes every couple of days to feed the cats, but some are missing hair and appear undernourished. She has racked up $7,800 in fines, Moloney said.

The Hernando County Animal Services shelter doesn't have room for the cats, but county Commissioner Diane Rowden is contacting shelters and rescue organizations to see whether they can share the load. If Pacek turns over the animals, the Sheriff's Office will dismiss the citations, Col. Mike Maurer told Rowden in an email.

"I hope she takes this deal," Maurer wrote. "It's best for everyone."

The Hernando County Health Department has deemed the home a public health nuisance and delivered a warning notice on Jan. 22, said Al Gray, the department's environmental health manager. Pacek could face $500 in daily fines, Gray said.

Neighbors say the home belonged to Pacek's grandparents, and she moved in a few years ago and started amassing cats. By 2011, the year she bought the home, she had dozens of them. High Point, a sprawling community of tidy mobile homes, has a two-pet limit. Pacek heeded a request in 2011 to get rid of the animals, and a trapper caught some that escaped, but her brood quickly grew again, said Jim Woolcock, president of High Point's board of directors.

The community's bylaws allow for fines of $25 a day per animal. The board gave Pacek a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the cats.

"She said, 'I'm working on it,' but she wasn't working on it," Woolcock said. "It is a hoarding problem, and it's gone to the extreme."

Neighbors such as Judith Mottram, who lives next door, want to be able to lounge outdoors again, but they want the cats to find good homes, too.

"It's so pathetic," Mottram said. "The animals didn't ask for all of this."

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.


Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding driver on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three people early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montanez...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Published: 01/20/18

Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Published: 01/20/18

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Published: 01/20/18

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Published: 01/20/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18