City begins cleanup of house where 85 animals were kept

June 07, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

Wearing protective jumpsuits, hoods and masks, city sanitation workers took up shovels and brooms yesterday to attack a roach- and rodent-infested South Baltimore rowhouse that until Sunday had held at least 85 animals.

About 75 neighbors stood in shock as workers hauled dead roaches and rodents, and infested household items, into trucks. The stench from the rowhouse in the 1900 block of Ramsay St. forced one worker to race out of the house and vomit.

"It's terrible -- I've never seen anything like it," said sanitation worker Artie McKeever. "There is feces everywhere and a one-foot-high pile of dead roaches. Mice were jumping out of the furniture."

The cleanup came three days after police, investigating a complaint, removed 63 animals -- including dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits and a toad -- from the house. Police returned Sunday and removed another 22 animals, which officers said apparently had been collected by the rowhouse's residents since Friday.

On Sunday, Mary L. Hatmaker, the owner of the three-bedroom house, and her brothers John Saulsbury, 30, and Ricky Saulsbury, 29, were taken to University Hospital for psychological evaluation. They were released Sunday night.

Ms. Hatmaker, a 31-year-old widow, and her brothers were evaluated again yesterday by Nollie P. Wood Jr., the health department's assistant commissioner for human behavior.

Ms. Hatmaker said yesterday that she and her brothers did not think they were living amid unsanitary conditions, and had taken in "stray" animals to protect them from the dangers of Baltimore's streets.

John Saulsbury said he tried to give the animals away, but no one came to pick them up. Some of the animals started breeding in the house, which unexpectedly increased the number that had to be sheltered, he said.

"We did not know where to call for help," said Mr. Saulsbury, who was hugged by City Council President Mary Pat Clarke when she visited the rowhouse to offer city aid.

"I miss the animals," added Mr. Saulsbury, who said he has a job distributing advertising circulars. "On Friday, when they took the animals, I was heartbroken and upset. . . . The situation just got out of control."

City workers had fumigated the dwelling and two adjacent rowhouses on Sunday, killing roaches, lice and other bugs, said city police officer J. A. Schultz Jr. of the Southern District. Then, the large-scale cleanup began.

"It's like an animal shelter that's never been cleaned," said deputy health commissioner Elias Dorsey, who ordered the cleanup.

Earl Watson, of the city's animal control department, said he hadn't seen so many animals in one house since 1989, when his department removed 250 animals from a house in the 200 block of S. Stricker St.

Under city law, residents must obtain a kennel permit if more than two animals live in a dwelling. Last week, Ms. Hatmaker was issued a citation for not having a kennel permit, Mr. Watson said. That citation carries no penalty or fine, he added.

Mr. Watson said the animal control department has received "many calls from people looking for their lost pets," which may have been removed from the Hatmaker house. The city's animal shelter at 301 Stockholm St. would be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. if people wanted to search for their pets, he said.

But he added that all gerbils, rats and mice taken from the Hatmaker house had been killed because they were infested with fleas.

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