Animal House

City Police Seize Cats From Disordered Home

Posted: May 22, 2013

Remnants of the clutter and filth that cost Mary Smoker her four cats sit on the front porch of her Lee Avenue home on Tuesday after cleanup efforts were finished. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg police, citing unsanitary conditions, seized four cats from a city home last week.

Police charged the home’s resident, Mary Smoker, 65, with misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

Smoker, who owns a cat and dog grooming business that she occasionally operates in her basement, said health problems prohibited her from maintaining a clean home.

“It got out of hand,” said Smoker, during an interview Tuesday. “I guess they thought it was dangerous [but] I’ve been living like this for a while.”

‘Covered With Trash’

On May 14, around 1 a.m., Smoker called police to report suspicious activity around her home at 492 Lee Ave., located at the corner of First Street.

While investigating the complaint, Harrisonburg officer C. Thomas entered the home to check for a possible intruder, according to a search warrant for the home filed in Rockingham County Circuit Court on Thursday.

“Officer Thomas stated that there was an overwhelming odor of urine and feces when he entered the residence and the floor was covered with trash and feces,” wrote J.C. Earhart, an animal control officer, in her affidavit for the search warrant.

Thomas also reported seeing several cats in the home.

“He observed a skittish white humped-back cat that walked with a limp and had sores on its body,” Earhart wrote. “Officer Thomas also noted several other cats that appeared to be in need of medical attention.”

The affidavit states an “aggressive” cat that appeared to be covered in some type of “oily substance” also was seen at the home.

On Thursday, police seized the cats from the residence.

According to the affidavit, Earhart has been to the home before.

“In the fall of 2009, [Earhart] was involved in a large-scale cleanup effort with several other agencies that restored the residence to a livable state,” the affidavit states, which notes the woman had eight animals living in the home at that time.

On Tuesday, Smoker said a friend has cleaned up a lot of the mess this time and hopes a judge will let her have her cats back in the future.

She faces up to 12 months in jail if convicted. She also can be banned from owning cats in the future.

Smoker is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Rockingham County General District Court on June 18.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or

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