NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - What started out as a call about roaming cats revealed a much bigger problem in a home off Market Street.

"When I walked into that house what I saw and what my brain was trying to get me to accept, it took me a little while," said Deputy Janice Covil. "I had to actually step out away from it and collect my thoughts to think about what I needed to do not just for the animals in that house but for the people living in that house."

As we stepped inside everyone became overwhelmed by the smell of urine and feces. The carpet was drenched in dark stains, several dead rats lay rotting, fleas jumped everywhere, roaches crawled across the counter and mounds of personal items were piled in each room.

"You could tell there was just a sense of devastation and maybe just sadness at that house," Covil said. "Almost like they'd given up. they just needed somebody to come in and help them."

The owner of the home, an elderly man, said he had lost control of his living situation after his wife died.

"Cruelty sort of hinges on malice it can also be from profound neglect," said Officer Stephen Watson. "What we often find is ignorance of a situation or denial of what is going on."

The man was ordered to court on a "manner of keeping" charge.

"Frustration sets in when you hear repeated excuses," said Covil. "You've heard it and you've heard so many. I don't have the time, the money, I just got to it today. You hear that all the time."

"I think one of the biggest things is our main victim can't talk, they're animals," said Deputy Brandon Parker. "We have to dig that much further to figure out what's going on, why it's going on and what we can do to fix it."

"For us, it's about making sure we've done all we can do," Covil said. "Because at the end of the day, who's their voice...if it's not us?"

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