Case Snapshot
Case ID: 15630
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull)
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Friday, Jul 3, 2009

County: Richland

Disposition: Not Charged

Person of Interest: Michael Ciesynski

North Dakota and Richland County officials scrambled recently to deal with allegations of animal abuse in Lidgerwood.

Tiffany Wisnewski claimed Michael Ciesynski had 22 cats and three dogs living in their own filth at his residence. She said the animals were not being cared for properly and were reproducing at a rapid rate.

Wisnewski contacted Dr. Susan Keller, state veterinarian, the Richland County Sheriff's Office and the Richland-Wilkin Humane Society. She said she was begging anyone to step in and help the animals.

"These animals continue to suffer daily and I wonder how many in there have died because of the living conditions," she said. "These animals are living in their own feces and urine. The last count from Michael was 22 or more (cats). There are no litter boxes, no running water, no heat, no air conditioning and no one to answer their pleas for help."

If the conditions were as bad as Wisnewski claimed, Keller said it might be the second worst case of neglect she has encountered.

Richland County Deputy Aaron Grenz visited the residence and found Michael Ciesynski at home. Grenz walked through the property and found the animals in good condition, although their living conditions were deplorable. He found the house overrun with junk and garbage, with only small paths available through the house for the animals to walk through.

But, Grenz found food and water for the animals. Ciesynski showed him the bags of food purchased the same day for his pets. Grenz served Ciesynski with a written citation Friday, July 3 telling him to have the property cleaned up in 10 days, said Richland County Sheriff Larry Leshovsky.

"We have the right to tell him to clean up the mess as it falls under a county-wide ordinance," Leshovsky said. "I find it ironic we are telling someone to clean up their house for animals and not for the people who live there. It is the people who choose to live this way though, not the animals I guess."

Grenz will return to the property after the 10 days has expired to see if Ciesynski is compliant with his written warning. He will return again in another 10 days to see if the homeowners remain compliant. If Ciesynski doesn't follow through with cleaning up his property in the time allotted, he could end up in court. If it goes to court the judge has the option of taking the animals out of his home.

"Michael Ciesynski is working with our officer now. We are hoping he'll relinquish some of the animals to give him fewer to take care of," Leshovsky said. "We found out people have been giving him cats and we are hoping this will stop. We are giving Michael an opportunity to clean up the environment and we'll go from there."

Ciesynski was home Thursday, July 2 and was happy to show a house of cats who appeared to be healthy.

His ex-wife, Dixie Ciesynski, said they take care of their cats and the animals eat better then their owners.

Ciesynski had recently begun living in the house again. He admitted the animals spent the winter unattended in his home, but he stopped in every day to feed them and gave them fresh water, he said.

"I have a hard time saying no when someone gives me a stray," he said. "But I have a reason to keep all these cats. I was a big drunk and taking in cats keeps me off the booze."

Ciesynski said he is working on cleaning up his messy house, but it will take him some time.

How many cats can a person have inside city limits?

The city of Lidgerwood doesn't have an ordinance specifying the number of pets their residents can have.

The problems at Ciesynski's house are not a revelation to city officials. The situation has been brought to their attention in the past, but city leaders don't want to limit pets as it punishes those residents who are taking care of their animals, said Kristin Schafer, city auditor.

"We do have animals at large ordinances but we can't do anything about the number of cats Michael has because they are locked up inside his house," she said.


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