Police investigate hoarder house with 70-plus cats inside

City councilman calls for changes to code enforcement model

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 27, 2017

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Police have identified a hoarder house situation on Hecht Street in Madison Heights. 

More than 70 cats were found inside, including several cats and kittens that had been deceased prior to police arriving. The surviving cats were in extremely poor condition and were heavily flea-infested and were using the entire house as a litter box. At press time, cats continued to be discovered, and authorities said there may be as many as 90. 

Now the homeowner, Steven Kwasiborski, 58, has been arrested and charged with one count of abandoning or cruelty to 10 or more animals, which carries a possible sentence of up to four years in prison, a $5,000 fine, up to 500 hours of community service, or any combination of the above. 

He was arraigned at the Madison Heights Police Department Oct. 21 and was given a $20,000 cash/surety bond. He has since bonded out. At press time, his next court date was Nov. 1 for his pre-exam conference. 

The police, meanwhile, are coordinating with the Oakland County Animal Shelter to remove the animals from the premises and have each cat checked by a licensed veterinarian. Some of the cats will be adoptable at a later date. Rescue facilities are sought to accept some of the cats so they can be adopted. Rescue organizations can contact the Madison Heights Animal Shelter at (248) 837-2784. 

Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis first learned about the house two months ago. 

“I just noticed the issue myself when I was knocking on doors for my campaign,” he recalled. “I smelled a foul odor when I was in the area, and I noticed the house’s windows were suspiciously covered. So I started bringing this up with city administration.”

Soltis said that he feels frustrated by how code enforcement didn’t effectively check the home. A code officer went out at the city’s request but didn’t detect the smell. Soltis said it’s hard to grasp that a house filled with more than 70 cats went under the radar like that for so long. 

“The current code enforcement model is obviously not working,” Soltis said. “It’s a failed model. We’ve seen this over and over again.”

He feels that it’s time for the police to directly supervise code enforcement responsibilities, which would speed up addressing situations like potential hoarder homes. 

“Search warrants have to be approved by a judge, and executed by law enforcement. So it just makes sense that code enforcement should go under law enforcement,” Soltis said. “We have animal control under police, but not code enforcement — how does that make any sense? So I want to see some significant improvement. The residents deserve better.”

Madison Police Chief Corey Haines said the house on Hecht was “one of the worst we have ever seen” with regard to the hoarding of cats. 

“Not only is the residence a danger to the homeowner, it’s a danger to the health and safety of our community. The neighbors have not been able to spend time in their own yards due to the extreme odor emanating from the house,” Haines said. “The cats are being removed from this house as quickly and as safely as possible.

“I would also like to state that we realize that the homeowner needs mental health treatment, but he failed to seek treatment on his own or with the urging of his family,” the chief added. “The criminal charges will facilitate him getting treatment, as well as operate to assist the city in recovering the costs associated with this case.” 

Madison Police Lt. Michael Siladke said hoarder homes exist in every community.

“There is a difficulty identifying them,” Siladke said. “Hoarder homes sometimes get to the point of becoming a nuisance to neighbors when the odor of hoarded garbage or animals becomes too much. At this point, it’s too late, as the legal ramifications up to and including condemning of a house can occur.  Family and friends of these potential hoarders have to recognize signs of hoarding, and step in and get assistance for these people early on before the situation worsens. This particular situation is a worst-case scenario because of the number of cats, which created the abuse and neglect situation along with the health hazard.” 

Soltis said there’s still more work to be done. 

“I’m sure there are more hoarder house situations out there in Madison Heights,” he said. “We need to resolve them.”

A message seeking comment from Kwasiborski’s attorney was not immediately returned at press time.