Over 100 cats found at NW Side bungalow; man cited for animal cruelty


About 110 cats have been rescued since Aug. 10 from an abandoned Belmont-Central home after a Cook County judge placed a custodial guardian over the property, clearing the way for city crews to clean and board up the house.

As of late last week, the Tree House Humane Society, 1212 W. Carmen Ave., was caring for more than half of those cats, which were being tested for their social levels toward humans. Many of the cats are shy, according to the organization’s Web site.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge recently placed the property in receivership, and an assessment of the property will be conducted after an extensive cleanup of the brick bungalow is conducted, city Department of Law spokesman John Holden said.

The city Department of Buildings visited the site three times this year and issued several citations, including  failure to register the property as a vacant building and failure to keep the property in a safe condition. The department sought a court order to have the house declared inhabitable after the first inspection in April.

Residents have reported that a man believed to be a former occupant of the home occasionally entered the house at night and that it was not usual for groups of cats to be seen outside the house in the late evening. The property is in foreclosure, Holden said.

Police on Aug. 14 issued a citation for alleged animal cruelty to a 48-year-old man who told officers that he owned the house and that due to financial issues he has not been living there, according to 17th (Albany Park) District police. The suspect, who was identified by police as Robert Sawicki, of the Roscoe address, also told police that he started with 10 cats, police said.

Cat urine and feces were on every floor of the home, and there was not proper food and water for the cats, police said. The man could not produce veterinary records for the cats, police said.

Efforts were being made to make sure that all the cats are removed before the house is completely boarded up, according to a volunteer with the rescue operation. In addition to Tree House, Paws Chicago, 1997 N. Clybourn Ave., is caring for some of the cats, and those interested in adopting a cat should contact the organizations, the volunteer said.