Five adults pleaded not guilty to felony child endangerment for allegedly exposing two children to "severely unsanitary conditions" in a Santa Ana home filled with feces and urine from 110 cats.
John Ed Howe, 68, his wife Sharon Lynn Howe, 65, their daughter Kerri Lynn Howe Moreno, 44, Moreno's husband Jessy Moreno, 41, and the Morenos' daughter Courtney Lynn Howe Perez, 23, entered the pleas in Orange County Superior Court Wednesday.
In February 2011, Santa Ana Police Animal Services officers received complaints of a foul animal odor emanating from the Howe/Moreno home. Responding officers smelled the intense odor of urine and feces before they reached the front door. Flies alive and dead were concentrated around doors and windows.
Officers wearing paper masks entered but had to leave after only a few minutes due to feeling ill from the overwhelming smell, according to a statement prosecutors released at the time charges were brought against the residents. They officers returned in full hazmat gear--including respirators--and discovered flies, roaches and cat hair, feces and urine all over the floors and other surfaces.
Girls who were 6 and 12 at the time also lived in the residence. One slept on a living room couch surrounded by cats, feces and urine, and the other slept in a bedroom under the same conditions, officers learned. Both had feces caked into the bottoms of their feet, and one girl had cat scratches on her arms and legs. They were later removed from the home and taken under the care of Child Protective Services.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Animal Services captured the 110 cats inside the home and discovered many were feral. More than 20 were later euthanized due to poor health. All the survivors had severe flea infestations, half suffered serious upper respiratory infections and a quarter had ear mites and fecal and urinary contamination on their coats. The total veterinary cost exceeded $10,000, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office, which alleges Perez and Sharon Howe ran an unlicensed shelter for runaway cats.
An April 19 pretrial hearing has been set.