CLEVELAND, GA (CBS46) – A White County couple tried to do a good deed, but it blew up in their faces.
They let a low-income family live in their house, rent-free, in return for watching their pets. But when they returned months later, the house was trashed and most of the animals were dead.
“[It was] disgusting. I had to do leap frogs to find a bare spot in the floor,” said homeowner Catie Bryant.
As Bryant explained, she and her husband moved to South Carolina indefinitely for his job, but they also wanted to keep their house in Georgia. They started looking for a caretaker who could live in the house for free as long as they paid the utilities and looked after the pets.
“We interviewed for about a month, several different people, and she came out multiple times.”
They finally decided on a couple with two children who described themselves as animal lovers. But when Catie Bryant came to visit in August after being away for eight months, the place was a total disaster. The couple originally had five cats that were fixed and stayed outdoors, but they found sixteen cats inside the house without food, water or air conditioning. Nine of those sixteen cats were dead.
It also looked like someone crashed a car into their outdoor pond, which used to be filled with at least 50 expensive Koi fish. Now there are only two left.
With a view of the Chattahoochee River, Bryant said the house used to be a nice place. Today, it is covered in garbage and animal waste.
“I don’t see how someone could live in a house like that, with children, and be so cruel to animals,” said Bryant.
The dog was one of the few survivors, but animal control officers said she appeared to be starving and covered in fleas.
Our cameras were there as county inspectors furiously brushed off the fleas they picked up from touring the house. They had only been inside for a few minutes. White County Animal Control officers told CBS46 it’s the worst flea infestation they’ve ever seen.
“I’m all the emotions wrapped into one, disgusted and sad,” said Bryant.
Bryant thanked White County law enforcement for braving the flea infested house to rescue the surviving animals. The sheriff obtained an arrest warrant for the two adult members of the family who abandoned the house. Bryant said there were also two juveniles living with them.
White County investigators said they expect the man and woman to turn themselves in soon.
CBS46 was unable to track down the accused family Wednesday, but on Thursday, their attorney, Blake Poole, sent the following statement:
“The Egerton’s left their residence on August 17, 2016, to go stay with family nearby. While they were staying with family, Mrs. Jackie Egerton would go back to the residence on a daily basis to check on the animals, feed them and ensure they had adequate water. On Thursday, August 25, 2016, Mrs. Egerton entered the home to check on the animals, like she did every day, but, upon entry, discovered that the cats had gotten upstairs and that the animals had made a mess of the home. After putting out food and fresh water, Mrs. Egerton left the home that evening with the intention of coming back over the weekend to clean up the mess. At no point in time were any of the animals mistreated or malnourished. The Egerton’s love their animals and the animals owned by the homeowner and always took good care of them.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Poole said his clients had not yet turned themselves into the sheriff.