Every time the landlord would come to the light brown house on North Green south of Second Street, the tenant would offer some reason why he didn’t need to come inside.
When he would stop by to change the furnace filter, for instance, “she’d make excuses like, ‘Folks from church came over last month and did it,’ ” said Deb Legge, neighborhood inspection administrator for the city’s office of central inspection. “He never saw anything on the exterior that caused him any concern.”
Neither did city inspectors.
That’s why city officials and the property owner alike were stunned to learn that 31 dead cats and two flea-riddled Labrador retrievers were found inside the house at 235 N. Green on Saturday. A neighbor called 911 saying she hadn’t seen the female occupant for more than a month.
Police arrived at the house to check on the woman’s welfare and smelled decay. Thinking the woman may have died inside the home, the officers notified firefighters, who arrived with respirators.
Inside, they found the dogs and dead cats, along with lots of trash.
The 69-year-old tenant was found at a friend’s house, where she had been staying after being hospitalized. She has since agreed to relinquish the remainder of her lease, Legge said.
The owner of the house, a Wichita attorney, plans to remove all carpets and floor coverings and then have the house fumigated to exterminate the fleas, she said.
“They didn’t know about the animals,” Legge said of the landlord. “They didn’t have much cause to fear what was going on.”
Housing inspectors won’t check the interior of the home until the house has been thoroughly cleaned, she said. A check of the house’s exterior after the animals were found revealed no meaningful violations.
The inspector had “a hard time finding any violation to write up,” Legge said. “It wasn’t anything that would have grabbed our attention.”
The owner of the house bought the property about 10 years ago and spent a lot of money fixing it up, she said. Information on how long the woman had lived there was not available on Tuesday.
The house, which was built in 1919, has three bedrooms and one bathroom and has 1,109 square feet.
Police officials said they plan to discuss the status of the case at a news briefing Wednesday at City Hall.