Agents with the Animal Humane Society are hoping that a renter in Braham, Minn., will turn over possession of about 20 cats while seeking mental health treatment instead of forcing law enforcement to go through the court system.
Officials acknowledge that it would be messy -- in more ways than one -- to try and pursue legal action against an alleged hoarder who is currently hospitalized, but frustrated neighbors say they hope it won't come to that.
"Every time it rains -- the tiles around the house, it's urine and cat stuff," said neighbor Diana Paro. "This house reeks -- bad."
Paro shares a wall with the alleged hoarder in the twin-home subdivision, and she's not shy about explaining her predicament.
"It smells like sewer," she said.
At times, Paro says it gets so bad she can't even do laundry in her basement because of the seepage from next door.
"Me and my son gag," Paro told FOX 9 News. "Can't use the basement. Every time we want to wash clothes, I have to cover my mouth with towels to go down there."
Neighbors told FOX 9 News they have been complaining about the smell, the growing number of cats and the general disarray of the home for some time, but it wasn't until a few days ago that law enforcement stepped in.
"Four of them put on HazMat suits and entered," Tammy Psyck told FOX 9 News. "That's the only way you can go in there."
After going inside, Braham police declared the home uninhabitable, saying it was covered in trash and feces. Officers estimate the renter had 20 cats, mostly strays that she took in and tried to care for.
The woman has since been hospitalized on an emergency order to get mental health treatment, but the cats were left behind.
"They are all going to die and rot -- that's the bottom line -- because they're not getting water or anything," Psyck said.
Now, the Animal Humane Society is involved -- and an investigator came to the home earlier on Monday; however, the woman must sign paperwork turning over possession of the cats before they can be removed. So far, that hasn't happened and neighbors are getting anxious.
"If they don't come out of there, it's going to get worse than it is," Psych warned.
FOX 9 News spoke with the renter's family, who said they have tried to get her help for years; however, she refused. In fact, family members say she even tried to hide her compulsion by dumping bleach on the floor and stairs when visitors came by to mask the smell inside the home.