Sunday, June 24, 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.

     
Comments
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Three people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the people arrived at a house in Childs Park, on the 41...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Authorities find

Authorities find "inmate" who walked away from Bilirakis event

The 23-year-old man who authorities said walked away from a New Port Richey political event while under supervision of a treatment center on Saturday has been located.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office described Nicholas Moore, 23, as both an "inmate"...
Published: 06/23/18
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Published: 06/23/18
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Published: 06/22/18
Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

Clearwater police search for ‘Bic Bandit’ accused of stealing lighters

CLEARWATER — Police detectives are searching for a man coined the "Bic Bandit" based on reports that he’s stolen dozens of lighters from the same 7-Eleven.According to Clearwater police, the man has swiped the lighters four times in the last month, t...
Published: 06/22/18
FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

FHP: One dead, three seriously injured in head-on Pasco crash

DADE CITY — A Dade City man was killed and three others were seriously injured after a pickup truck and motorcycle crashed head-on Friday morning, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Floyd Williamson, 72, of Lakeland, was driving northbound on U....
Published: 06/22/18
Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Body of missing Hernando park ranger found in Georgia; boyfriend being questioned

Georgia detectives on Friday recovered the body of Mitzi Marie Babb, a 43-year-old Hernando park ranger who had been missing since Tuesday.Her boyfriend, arrested Thursday on unrelated charges, has been called a person of interest in her disappearanc...
Published: 06/22/18
A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

A Pasco driver was annoyed another driver was texting. So he pointed a firearm at her.

PORT RICHEY — A 41-year-old Uber driver was arrested Friday after police said he pointed a firearm at another driver because he was annoyed that she was texting and driving.Philip Macchio was driving near State Road 52 and U.S. 19 around 12:30 a.m. F...
Published: 06/22/18
Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

Deputies: Cheerleading coach sent explicit images to 16-year-old

A 28-year-old cheerleading coach faces charges for engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with a 16-year-old girl, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Victor Martin Valenty faces 10 counts of traveling to meet a minor, distributing ob...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership. Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, o...
Published: 06/21/18