BOWDOIN — Three live kittens were pulled out of a washing machine Wednesday night in a Burrough Road house filled with feces, carcasses, fleas and ticks.
An animal control worker was attempting to corral as many as four dozen cats and kittens running free inside the crumbling house at the end of the road. He was also contending with a slew of health hazards, including a tub filled with cat waste, buckets filled with human feces and animal carcasses scattered across the property.
Animal Damage Control Agent Richard Burton Jr. was working alone on the property after dark. A team of workers from various local and state agencies were expected to be on the scene by Thursday morning.
The elderly man who lived in the house had been removed and was being treated at a hospice. The man, said to be in his 70s, was not identified. Burton was called in to help at the house for what was reported as a few stray cats.
What he found was alarming.
"I've never seen a house like this," Burton said. "There are kittens all over the place, dead and alive. There are cats in the ceiling and the walls."
As Burton began moving through the trash-strewn house, he heard muffled cat cries from what served as a kitchen area. When he lifted the blood-spattered lid of a washing machine, he found three kittens inside.
"They were on their last legs," he said.
He was able to remove those kittens. By then, another worker from the Coastal Humane Society had responded to help at the scene, Burton said. That worker drove the three rescued kittens back to the Brunswick shelter.
Burton remained at the home, a two-story, unpainted house near the area where Burrough Road turns to dirt. It was not immediately known how long the occupant had lived in those conditions, Burton said. After the man was removed from the house, his daughter gave animal workers permission to go inside.
By nightfall, Burton had managed to capture three more cats. He expected to return to the property Thursday with traps and remove more animals from the house. From what he had seen and heard, he estimated there might be as many as 50 cats in and around the house.
Burton worked in short bursts because the smell inside the house could not be endured for long stretches. And, there were health perils.
"You can't walk in here without getting covered in fleas and ticks," he said, "and without getting fecal matter on your shoes."
On the second floor, Burton found a mattress that had been clawed through. Cats had burrowed inside the bedding as well as the walls around it. A pair of buckets next to the bed were filled with human waste, Burton said. Blood was spattered on the bed, floor and walls.
"The bed is crawling with fleas and bedbugs," Burton said. "I stood here for a while with my flashlight, just listening. I could hear cats in the walls."
There were also dead cats all around the property: two next to the front steps, dead for what Burton estimated was about a week; another in a shed, dead for about a month.
Beneath a stairwell, cat feces had piled up 6 inches high. Cupboard doors, most of them falling off, were spattered with fly waste. Some woodwork had been whittled down by a long period of cats clawing at it, Burton said. Indications were that the man lived inside the house with cats for many years.
Some who know the area said cats and kittens were often seen wandering in the roadway in front of the house. The man who lived there often stood out next to the road, they said.
Inside, there were canned goods in the cupboards as well as pots and pans filled with rotten food. A half-empty 12-pack of beer sat in a chair next to a book on home health remedies.
Few personal items were found amid the trash and waste. However, hanging alone on one wall was what appeared to be a child's drawing on construction paper. It depicted nine people drawn in crayon. One of them, in the middle, was labeled "Daddy."
Burton was still waiting for return phone calls by 9:30 p.m. He was unsure which agencies would respond on Thursday, although he expected more assistance from the Humane Society.
After closing up the house, Burton was preparing to deliver three of the captured cats to the shelter. He was hoping to save more when he returned.
"It's sad," he said. "It's really, really sad."