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Wednesday, Oct 5, 2011

County: Coweta

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged:
» Philip Vardakis - Dismissed
» Houston Vardakis - Dismissed
» Suzanne Vardakis - Convicted

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

That's the number of cats -- dead and alive -- that have been removed from a house in east Coweta County since Wednesday.

About 160 living felines have been lodged in a FEMA trailer next door to the Coweta County animal shelter on Selt Road in Newnan. Thirty-five dead cats -- some found in plastic bags in the freezer -- also were removed from the home.

About 25 more feral cats still in the the home will need to be trapped and removed, Coweta County officials said.

"This is an incredibly overwhelming situation that has taxed our resources," said Patricia Palmer, public affairs director for Coweta County. She noted that this one residence housed twice as many cats as the county's entire animal shelter.

Palmer said the county's four animal shelter workers are overwhelmed by caring for the new cats, which are isolated from the shelter's other cats because of the possibility of disease.

The cats are being evaluated, and most likely, many will be euthanized because they are suffering from feline leukemia and feline AIDS, Palmer said. "Most times, these diseases are not treatable," she said.

Palmer said she didn't know why the family kept so many cats in their home.

County employees had to don air tanks and face masks to enter the house, which was reportedly covered in urine and feces.

Palmer said someone at the home at 15 Candlewood Court in the Candlewood subdivision off Ga. 154 called the Coweta County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday to ask for help with the felines. The sheriff's office called the animal control agency.

The county does not have an ordinance limiting the number of cats that can be at one residence, but Palmer said there are ordinances concerning their treatment.

Homeowner Philip Vardakis and his son, Houston Vardakis, were charged with 75 counts each on three different charges: failure to provide humane treatment to animals, mistreatment of animals, and having no proof of rabies vaccines, Palmer said.

She said Philip Vardakis' wife also will be cited when she is located. Attempts to reach the Vardakis family by phone and email were unsuccessful.

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Case Updates

The woman who kept more than 200 cats at her eastern Coweta County residence before county authorities removed them was ordered to pay restitution of almost $6,000.

Suzanne Vardakis recently pleaded nolo contendere in Coweta County Magistrate Court to two violations of county animal ordinances; each listing 230 counts, according to court records.

Nolo contendere is a Latin term meaning "no contest," or "I do not contend." It is a plea where the defendant does not accept or deny responsibility for the charges, but agrees to accept punishment.

According to the judgment, Vardakis must pay $5,805.52; be placed on unsupervised probation for 180 days; and not have any county ordinance violations while on probation.

Vardakis disappeared from her home, 15 Candlewood Court off Highway 154, on Oct. 6. That was the day Coweta authorities were notified about the cats. She took about a dozen cats with her that day and went to a veterinary clinic. All of those animals were euthanized.

In all, 236 cats were removed from the residence. The majority of those were too sick or feral to be adopted and were later euthanized. Thirty-six cats removed were already dead. It is not known how long the cats were kept at the residence.

Authorities were called to the home by Vardakis' husband, Philip. He and their son, Houston, were charged with 75 counts each of violating three different county ordinances that day at the residence.

The charges against Philip Vardakis and Houston, whose last name is Yale, were dismissed, according to Patricia Palmer, public affairs director for Coweta County.

"We did request that the charges for both Mr. Vardakis and Mr. Yale be dropped because they cooperated with the investigation and with efforts to resolve the situation," Palmer said. "Restitution is being made to reimburse the county for the direct costs incurred."

The county spent more than 300 man-hours on the case, not including fire department and sheriff's office personnel. A large portable temporary shelter was brought in to house the animals at the county's permanent animal shelter was full.

Because Suzanne Vardakis disappeared and could not be located, the charges were changed to state charges so a warrant could be issued.

Vardakis was found, arrested and booked into the Coweta County Jail on Nov. 9. She later posted a $5,000 bond.

Afterward, Coweta officials asked the Coweta County State Court Solicitor General's office to let the county handle the charges on the county level instead of the state level, Palmer said. The Solicitor's office agreed and the case was moved to Magistrate Court.

As of now, there are 51 cats from the Candlewood house still at the animal shelter, Palmer said. Those animals were taken out of the trailer and are now in the main animal shelter.

"We sure could use the community's help on adopting these cats," she said, adding that some of the cats are available at a reduced cost because they already had shots and were microchipped before the county took them.

"We are still extremely overcrowded and need citizens' assistance in finding them good homes," Palmer added. "Today we have 135 cats either at the shelter or in the care of the veterinarian."
Source: times-herald.com - Dec 13, 2011
Update posted on Dec 13, 2011 - 10:01PM 
The woman discovered to have kept more than 200 cats in her home has been arrested and booked into the Coweta County Jail.

Suzanne Vardakis, 50, was charged with five counts of animal cruelty, according to jail records. She was arrested Wednesday and was still in the jail as of late Thursday.

Vardakis disappeared from her east Coweta home on Oct. 6, the day authorities were notified about the cats. She took about a dozen cats with her that day and went to a veterinary clinic. All of those animals were euthanized.

Authorities were unable to find her and eventually the county's Animal Control Department issued a warrant for her arrest.

It was not immediately clear where she was arrested.

Vardakis currently is facing state charges. Her husband, Philip, and son, Houston, were charged Oct. 6 at the residence located at 15 Candlewood Court off Highway 154. They each face 75 counts of violating three different county ordinances relating to animals.

"To have a warrant issued, the charges had to be state-level misdemeanor charges," said Patricia Palmer, public affairs director for Coweta County. "A warrant was issued for her arrest with a more serious charge of misdemeanor animal cruelty because that was the best way to find her."

Because Philip Vardakis and his son were cited at the residence, there was no need to issue warrants for them. County authorities said Philip Vardakis is the one who notified them about the cats.

"As far as Animal Control is concerned, the biggest issue is that she is cited and is aware she has cases pending," Palmer said.

In all, 236 cats were removed from the residence. The majority of those were too sick or feral to be adopted and were later euthanized. Thirty-six cats removed were already dead.

Photos taken of the inside of the residence showed cats literally everywhere, and extremely squalid conditions.

The county had to utilize a large powered trailer to house the animals as the animal shelter was already at capacity. It also has spent about $4,500, primarily on cat-related items and veterinarian bills.

The county also has devoted about 300 man-hours to the case. Those man-hours do not include sheriff's deputies and firefighters, several of whom were on hand the first couple of days.

Late last month the county put what few cats remained -- about 60 -- up for adoption.
Source: times-herald.com - Nov 11, 2011
Update posted on Nov 11, 2011 - 7:50PM 

References

« GA State Animal Cruelty Map
« More cases in Coweta County, GA

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