A grandfather who really let his Santa Ana house go--the smell of urine, feces and dead stuff from 110 roaming cats--copped to misdemeanor counts of child abuse and endangerment and was sentenced to three years probation. But should John Ed Howe violate the terms of his probation, the 69-year-old faces two years behind bars. Four other family members have charges pending from what authorities called an illegal cat-rescue operation.
John Howe, who now resides in the South Baker Street home alone, had been living there with his 66-year-old wife, 45-year-old daughter, 42-year-old son-in-law, 24-year-old granddaughter, 12- and 7-year-old great-granddaughters and the 110 cats, some feral. The Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services division sent officers to the residence in February 2011 after receiving complaints from neighbors about foul animal odors.
Responding officers could smell the intense odor of urine and feces and see live and dead flies congregating around the windows and doors before stepping into the home. Despite wearing paper masks, officers had to leave after only a few minutes due to feeling ill from the overwhelming smell. They returned wearing full hazmat gear, including body suits and respirators, and discovered feces and urine all over the floors and other surfaces, as well as cat hair, roaches and flies.
Officers learned one child slept in the living room on a couch and the second slept in a bedroom, but bother were exposed to the cats and odors. At least one child had cat scratches on her arms and legs, and both had feline feces caked on their feet.
The girls were later placed in alternative housing, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) revealed at the time. Each cat was removed in separate carriers for examination and medical treatment. All suffered from severe flea infestations, half had serious upper respiratory infections and one quarter had ear mites and another quarter had fecal and urinary contamination of their coats.
More than 20 cats were euthanized. The total veterinary cost exceeded $10,000, according to the OCDA. Surviving cats were adopted by families from legitimate rescue organizations.
John Howe, his wife Sharon Lynn Howe, their daughter Kerri Lynn Howe Moreno, her husband Jessy Moreno and graddaughter Courtney Lynn Howe Perez were each accused of failing to protect and endangering the two children by having them to live in a severely unsanitary and unsafe environment. Sharon Howe and Courtney Perez were further alleged to have abused the cats by keeping them in an unsanitary environment and failing to provide food, water, and proper medical care.
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All five pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in January 2012.
The maximum prison sentence John Howe faced before he pleaded guilty Monday was seven years, the OCDA reported at the time. The remaining defendants have court hearing dates scheduled in Santa Ana this month and next.