Man ordered to stay out of home in cat hoarding case

Southwest Michigan
A photo from a cat hoarding investigation in St. Joseph County on Aug. 4, 2020. (Courtesy of Park Township)

A photo from a cat hoarding investigation in St. Joseph County on Aug. 4, 2020. (Courtesy of Park Township)

CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who owns a home where more than 150 cats were found in rural St. Joseph County has been ordered to stay out of the house until it has been cleaned up.

Anthony Pitone appeared in front of St. Joseph County Circuit Court Judge Paul Stutesman on Tuesday for a hearing on a temporary restraining order. His daughter, Diane Pitone, was charged with animal cruelty last week at the St. Joseph County District Court.

Earlier this month, Park Township officials along with the St. Joseph County Animal Control removed more than 150 cats from Anthony Pitone’s home in the 19000 block of Lakeshore Drive in Park Township.

Roxanne Seeber, the attorney representing Park Township, told the judge she had a conversation with Anthony Pitone and they agreed he would not occupy the house until he’s granted an occupancy permit by the Park Township building official and the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.

Stutesman told Seeber he didn’t see any documentation in his file that the home is uninhabitable. The township attorney told him there is an email from the health department but no official documentation.  

Stutesman also questioned what Anothony Pitone must do to get the occupancy permit.

“Mr. Pitone has to know what you want him to remedy. Is it removing all the debris because it was just cats? There is debris around the house. Is it just removing the urine smell? Is it removing the urine and feces? You got to set a landmark for him to reach so he can enjoy his home on the lake. It can’t be a moving target,” Stutesman said.

Seeber also told the judge as part of the agreement with Anthony Pitone, he has asked for two cats to be returned to him.  

Stutesman asked about the limitation of the two cats and if there was a township ordinance. Seeber told him there is no ordinance limiting the number of cats, but Anthony Pitone only asked for the two he owned before his daughter brought in more.  

Stutesman asked Anthony Pitone if he understood the agreement made with Park Township.  

“Until you get it cleaned up and it meets the satisfaction of the township and the health department, which I’m still unclear what it is they’re saying exactly what you need to do, until you get a further order from the court lifting the injunction to not live there, you’ll agree not to live there?” Stutesman asked Anthony Pitone, who agreed to the order and told the court he was currently living in Berrien County.  

Anthony Pitone told the court he has contacted ServePro to come clean up the house, but they have not been there yet as he was waiting until the court hearing before doing anything to with the house.

Stutesman granted the township’s request for a preliminary injunction to keep Anthony Pitone from living in the home. The injunction also requires him to remedy the home and get an inspection that results in the granting of an occupancy permit.  

The next hearing will be in two weeks to update the progress of the cleanup.

Diane Pitone, in a separate agreement, also agreed not to occupy the house on Lakeshore Drive and to not bring anymore cats to the residence.

In a related case, authorities in Three Rivers removed more than 60 cats from the home of Diane Pitone’s boyfriend on North Lincoln Avenue. She has not been charged in that case.  

The St. Joseph County Animal Control is still in need of donations to care for the cats seized from the homes. Donations of cat food, kitty litter, bleach, laundry soap, larger size metal collapsible cages and other items are being accepted for drop off at the St. Joseph County Animal Control shelter gate.

Monetary donations can be made to the shelter through the United Way of St. Joseph County. Donors can designate their money to care specifically for the cats at the shelter.

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