Dozens of animals, carcasses removed from Va. woman's home

Fairfax County officers remove debris, animals and carcasses from a house on Ramsgate Terrace.
Fairfax County officers remove debris, animals and carcasses from a house on Ramsgate Terrace. (Clarence Williams/the Washington Post)
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By Clarence Williams and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fairfax County authorities removed dozens of dogs, cats, birds and dead animals from a house on a quiet Mount Vernon street Tuesday after neighbors complained of foul odors, a county police spokeswoman said.

Working under floodlights into the night, county employees in protective suits moved in and out of the house on Ramsgate Terrace, removing debris, animals and carcasses.

Neighbor David Kwasnik said the smell near the house had been "just unbelievable" at times. "It just got to the point that something needed to be done."

About two dozen cats, more than a dozen birds and several dogs were found alive. Several were malnourished and were taken for veterinary treatment, said Lucy Caldwell, a police spokeswoman. Authorities said that more than two dozen birds and small mammals such as gerbils and hamsters were found dead.

Megan Barber, 33, was charged by summons with animal cruelty and being an unfit animal owner, Caldwell said. A sticker was placed on the house declaring it uninhabitable. Barber was not at the house Tuesday night, and she could not be reached.

Authorities went to the house mid-morning and stayed throughout the day, carrying out cardboard boxes containing the carcasses.

Many people living on Ramsgate Terrace, a street of single-family houses near the Riverside Estates community, said they knew little about the woman or the animals in her house. One said that she kept a sticker on her car promoting animal rescue.

The incident is reminiscent of cases of animal hoarding reported in the Washington area in the past few years. In one, an 82-year-old woman was found to have 488 cats -- 222 of them dead -- in her home in July 2005.

After that incident, several more cases of animal hoarding were brought to authorities' attention, said John Yetman, a former head of the Fairfax hoarding task force.

But the complaints subsided, Yetman said, and a considerable period went by without reports of large-scale hoarding.


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