Animal cruelty trial is today

2 Columbia women facing 225 charges involving cats in their townhouse

March 16, 2007|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

Nadia Wasserman said the smell from her next-door neighbor's townhouse last summer was "horrible."

"We have a deck and could not enjoy it because of the smell," she said. "Then the wind would blow, and you would think you live in a barn."

What Wasserman smelled was cats. Today, her neighbors - Ayten Icgoren, 79, and Nese Enetullah Icgoren, 50, who share a house in the 7300 block of Swan Point Way - are scheduled for trial in Howard County District Court on more than 200 counts of animal cruelty.

The mother and daughter lost one battle this week, when the Howard County Board of Appeals denied them custody of three cats impounded from their Columbia townhouse in August during the seizure of 75 sickened and dead cats.

They are charged with 225 counts of animal cruelty, including 75 counts of inflicting unnecessary suffering and pain, and 75 counts of failure to provide proper care for the cats. Each of the misdemeanor counts carries a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail. The women are also charged with 75 misdemeanor counts of violating the Howard County animal cruelty code. Each count carries a fine of up to $1,000.

Ayten Icgoren was also charged with one count of interfering with an investigation, a county violation that carries as much as a $150 fine.

During the search of the residence in August, police and county animal-control officers described cat urine and feces throughout the home, including on stairs, floors and countertops, according to charging documents. Officials also found two boxes of decomposing dead cats and other dead cats in a closet with maggots and other insects, the document said.

Animal-control officers impounded 58 live cats and 17 dead ones.

Police said 50 of the live cats were euthanized.

T. Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the county state's attorney's office, declined to comment about the trial. Joseph Murtha, who represents the Icgorens, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

On Monday, the Howard County Board of Appeals ruled that it had not found sufficient evidence to have the Animal Matters Board reopen the case regarding its October decision to not allow Ayten Icgoren to take custody of the three cats that were seized.

Ayten Icgoren appealed because she believes the Animal Matters Board acted unfairly by not allowing her sufficient time to prove her case, according to a document she submitted to the board.

Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for Howard County police, who oversee the animal-control agency and the Animal Matters Board, said the cats had been in county custody pending the outcome of Monday's hearing.

The cats "will be held for a period of days for evaluations to see if they are adoptable," Llewellyn said. "After that period of time, they will be put up for adoption for an appropriate family."

During the Animal Matters Board hearing Sept. 19, Deborah M. Baracco, the county's animal-control administrator, testified about cases of animal neglect against Ayten Icgoren dating to 2003.

Baracco testified that in January 2003, animal control received a cruelty complaint regarding the care of cats at Ayten Icogren's North Laurel home. Baracco said the condition "inside the home was deplorable. ... The floors were covered with animal feces, and the cats inside the home were extremely dirty and flea-infested," according to transcripts from September hearing.

Animal control removed seven cats from the house, Baracco testified.

Ayten Icgoren was found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty charges and was ordered to pay a $150 fine, according to court records.

When Ayten Icgoren moved to the townhouse on Swan Point Way, she regained custody of the seven cats that had been seized, Baracco testified.

In September 2004, animal-control officers received a complaint about a "bad odor coming from the residence" on Swan Point Way, Baracco testified. She told the panel that once animal-control officers made arrangements with Ayten Icgoren, 10 days after they responded to the complaint, they were able to search home and found no signs that the eight cats living there had been neglected.

In August last year, the agency received several complaints about a suspicious odor coming from the house. Baracco testified that the agency attempted to make arrangements with Ayten Icgoren to search her home but that she said "she did not want animal control coming to her house. She stated that her neighbors did not like her, and that is why animal control received the complaint."

Baracco said Ayten Icgoren attempted to delay the inspection "so that her neighbors wouldn't feel that they had won."

Baracco also told the panel that Ayten Icgoren had previously told her that the residence was clean and had no odor, and that seven cats were living there, three belonging to and four to her daughter. When animal-control officials went to the residence, Icgoren attempted to prevent them from entering, Baracco said.

Once officials gained access to the residence, they found animal neglect, including malnourished cats and others that showed signs of cannibalism, Baracco said.

Ayten Icgoren testified that Barracco was giving board members false statements.

"I wanted to come and explain my side of it because, unfortunately, now even on the earth, lies happen, and Ms. Baracco is here. I am telling it to her face: She was lying under oath," Ayten Icgoren testified. "And my belief is we may lie, and I lie. I lie to her that we didn't have too many cats there, but under oath, lying is a bad thing."

Asked by the panel what proper care of cats is, Icgoren said: "They have to have water and food all the time there, and if they are not feeling well, supposedly should be examined by a doctor to be treated. I think that is proper care."

Efforts to reach Ayten Icgoren and Nese Enetullah Icgoren at the telephone number listed in court records were unsuccessful.

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