MONTGOMERY - Montgomery and county officials are investigating the deaths of dozens of cats found at a Town of Montgomery home following the former owner’s eviction.

Town Animal Control Officer Anne Ilkiw said that as of midday Friday, the remains of 89 cats had been taken from inside the ranch-style house at 456 Beaver Dam Road. Eighty-nine and counting, she said.

Montgomery town Police Chief Arnold "Butch" Amthor said officers who were on the scene were shocked by the conditions in the house.

"They said it was horrific," he said.

More dead cats, their bodies inside cardboard boxes, were found in an open grave at the edge of the woods behind the house. Many of the boxes appeared to be labeled with names, and some with little epitaphs.

“RIP Zippy you were a good little girl,” read one box in part.

Roughly eight cats have survived, Ilkiw said; around five have not yet been captured.

Amthor said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation, but “we will be working with the proper authorities to make sure there’s a full and thorough investigation.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is involved, Amthor said, and there is potential for animal cruelty charges to be filed.

Officials said the property owner, MTGLQ Investors, evicted the prior occupant on Sept. 9.

Property and county records indicate that the previous owner and occupant was Patrick Rhodes, who bought the home in 2006; that the property went into foreclosure; and that MTGLQ took title on Nov. 5, 2018.

The cat remains were discovered when a work crew arrived to clear out the house.

On Friday, contractors were still working to clear out the house’s contents. Piles of furnishings, removed by the contractors, sat behind the home and near a garage at the rear.

A little after midday, after the workers left for what appeared to be a lunch break, Ilkiw returned to the property to collect the remains of a cat so a necropsy can be performed to determine the cause of death, and potentially for prosecution, police said. The smell of decay lingered on the property, and intensified as Ilkiw opened a shed where the cats’ remains have been stored until they can be properly disposed of.

Ilkiw also planned to set out a trap to try to catch the remaining live cats.

hyakin@th-record.com