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Code officers serve warrant for excessive animals in Penn Hills home

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 4:09 p.m.
Penn Hills Progress
Code enforcement officers were forced to obtain a warrant to enter this home at 1070 Jefferson Road, after complaints that the owners were housing large numbers of animals inside. February 18, 2013. Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Penn Hills Progress
Code enforcement officers were forced to obtain a warrant to enter this home at 1070 Jefferson Road, after complaints that the owners were housing large numbers of animals inside. February 18, 2013. Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review

In 2008, Paul and Jennifer Sypien were recognized as “Hometown Heroes” by a local business in Canaveral Groves, Fla., for their work as owners of the Wildlife Care Center of Florida.

To ask Joy Strang and Dave Bair, however, they're anything but heroes.

Strang said the Sypiens bought her former home on Jefferson Road and completely ruined it, using it to house ferrets, dogs, birds and cats.

To Bair, who lived next door to them for a year, the Sypiens' animal collection was the source of constant, persistent foul odors.

Bair, who has lived in his home on Jefferson Road for more than 40 years, said he first spoke with Jennifer Sypien in February 2012, shortly after the Sypiens bought the house.

“She mentioned that they had five dogs, but that she was going to build an enclosure, she wasn't going to have them outside barking all the time, that sort of thing,” Bair said. “But when they started moving in, I noticed a lot of furniture going out and a lot of cages going in.”

Two weeks after the Sypiens purchased the home, previous owner Joy Strang came back to pick up some boxes she had left at the property. Strang said she was horrified by what had happened to her and her husband's former home in only a couple of weeks.

“It smelled so bad that I stopped at the (store) to buy deodorizing spray, because I smelled so awful from being in the home,” Strang said. “It was winter, and I was driving with my windows open because of the smell.”

Strang said a sectional couch that had been left with the house was covered in animal feces, what had once been the family room was filled with bird cages, and another room was stacked floor-to-ceiling with cages of ferrets.

“She told me I'd just missed ‘ferret play time,' and she had to go and wipe the feces off of her shirt,” Strang said.

Strang said Jennifer Sypien told her that there were 16 dogs on the property, including six hybrid wolf-dogs.

“She told me the dogs were 80 percent wolf, and that they wouldn't let the home inspector go in and finish the property inspection because they said he couldn't be in the house with the dogs in there,” Strang said.

When Strang told him about the number of dogs at the residence, Bair decided to take action and complain to the Penn Hills Code Enforcement Department.

Acting code enforcement director John McCafferty said the Sypiens were accused of operating a business without a proper license.

“We consider more than six dogs (on one property) to be a kennel, and that requires a business permit,” McCafferty said.

After the Sypiens refused to let code inspectors into the home, enforcement officers requested Penn Hills council's approval to request an administrative warrant to enter the house. Council approved the warrant request at its Feb. 18 meeting.

Bair also called Penn Hills police about the Sypiens' dogs barking on the evening of Sept. 3, 2012. No charges were filed, but police documents note that responding officers smelled “a foul odor emitting from the home.”

Responding Patrolman Dennis Wynn wrote in his report that the Sypiens told him the couple had “seven German Shepherd/husky mix dogs (four with dog licenses), seven ferrets and nine parrots … it appeared no animal laws were violated.”

According to municipal code, however, residents are only permitted to house one ferret as a pet. Additionally, the zoning code prohibits residents from housing more than six dogs without proper permitting as a kennel.

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, the Sypiens were licensed to operate a wildlife rehab center from September 2004 through the end of 2012. Between 2004 and 2012, they operated three different businesses: Coon's Run Wildlife, Wildlife Care Center of Florida and All Wildlife And Rescued Exotics.

When their permit expired Dec. 31, 2012, the commission mailed a renewal to their Florida address, which was returned as undeliverable with no forwarding address.

McCafferty and code enforcement officers served the administrative warrant Feb. 21. He said there were no animals found inside the home, but there were several dog cages on the property.

“It looked like they moved out quickly and left some things there,” McCafferty said.

The code violation charges, however, will be dropped, he added, because there are no longer any animals in the house.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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