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Thursday, Aug 18, 2011County: Bristol
Alleged: Laura Govoni
City officials removed 22 animals Thursday from a putrid South End triple-decker.
The Department of Children and Families also took custody of a 2-year-old boy who was living with relatives in the first-floor apartment at 31 Ashley St.
Animal control and police officers said the apartment had no electricity, was soaked with urine and littered throughout with feces and infested with cockroaches and fleas.
Around 6:15 p.m., police officers escorted a DCF caseworker to the tenement and called the New Bedford Animal Control Division after smelling urine, which was noticeable from the street.
Animal control officers seized eight dogs, a rabbit and several cats and kittens from the first-floor apartment. They appeared to be well fed and relatively healthy.
New Bedford Animal Control Officer Emanuel Maciel said the animals will be taken to Forever Paws Animal Shelter in Fall River and put up for adoption.
Maciel said Laura Govoni, 45, of 31 Ashley St., will be charged with two counts of cruelty to animals, for unsanitary conditions and for allegedly not cleaning the rabbit's cage, which Maciel said was encrusted with three inches of feces.
Govoni, whose grandson was taken into DCF custody, told a reporter it was "a challenge" to keep up with the animals.
"I washed them. I fed them. They never went without food," said Govoni, who lives with other relatives in the apartment.
Govoni said she had been trying to clean and disinfect the apartment when someone called DCF to complain about the conditions. A DCF employee told relatives Thursday the child was safe and doing well.
John Pereira, the building's owner and Govoni's fiance, blamed Thursday's situation on a running dispute with several tenants, whom he and Govoni alleged dealt drugs and were seeking revenge for their efforts in trying to collect back rent and evict them.
"They're trying to get my family in trouble," Govoni said.
"They were getting back at us," added Pereira, who claimed he recently sought help from City Hall.
"All I'm trying to do is be a good landlord," said Pereira, who bought the tenement in 2008, records show.
Maciel said police and animal control officers have raided the triple-decker at least three times in the past year for drug-related investigations.
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