The Butte man arrested for hoarding more than 100 cats in his small home likely had the animals for more than a year, according to court documents filed this week.
Douglas Dean Billman, 54, faces seven charges of aggravated animal cruelty, and he may be forced to reimburse the county for veterinary care and housing of all the living cats rescued last week from his rental home on Delaware Street.
Billman faces up to two years with the Montana Department of Corrections on each criminal charge.
Animal-control and police officials described it as one of the worst cat hoarding cases in Butte history. The home was in horrific condition, filled with the carcasses of dead cats and piles of feces.
Prosecutors say Billman confined the cats in a cruel manner, failed to meet general care needs and ultimately abandoned the animals at the home. Although Billman listed the Delaware Street house as his legal address at one point, neighbors said they hadn’t seen him for at least a month.
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After rescuing as many of the animals as they could, police arrested Billman Saturday at his mother’s home in Butte. He quickly posted $17,000 bond and was released.
Billman has yet to appear in court. His attorney represented him via letter for the initial appearance in justice court.
Officials in hazardous- materials suits entered the home after neighbors complained about the condition of the house. Authorities declared an emergency and entered the home when they smelled a horrible odor and saw cats milling around.
Some of the animals were dead and others had to be put down due to severe illness. Those that survived are housed at the county animal shelter.
“We’re just caring for them in any way that we can,” said Jacki Casagranda, supervisor at the Butte-Silver Bow Animal Shelter. The cats were malnourished and dehydrated, among other ailments.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Authorities have not said how many of the rescued cats survived. An estimated 80 to 100 cats - live and dead - were found inside the house.
The county shelter typically has about 50 cats at a time. The influx of new occupants has upped its staff’s workload drastically.
“We’re always open to volunteers,” Casagranda said. “Whatever people are willing to do, we find things for them.”
While the confiscated cats are not available for adoption at this time, many others at the shelter are looking for a home, and the shelter desperately wants to make more space for the rescued cats. If you can’t take one, you can always visit the animals at the shelter or take a dog for a walk, Casagranda added.
“The community has been great,” Casagranda said. “We’ve had some great donations. It’s super amazing.”
Want to help?
Help feed and care for the rescued cats by donating feline items to the Butte-Silver Bow Animal Shelter, 699 Centennial Ave. Both dry and canned cat food are needed, along with sheets, blankets and towels. Cash and check donations can be made via PayPal. Visit http://montanapets.org/bas or call 406-782-8450.