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Highland Park Couple Fined $21K for Animal Cruelty

An administrative hearing officer found Jorjick and Agnes Badalpour liable for mistreating 21 Persian cats after emotional testimony about the family's health and money problems.

The city of Highland Park fined residents Jorjick and Agnes Badalpour over $21,000 on Thursday for mistreating 21 Persian cats the couple kept in their garage for years.

Earlier:

The Windsor Road couple was after the city's no-kill animal shelter removed 21 Persian cats from a garage that had no ventilation, no light and only one litter box.

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Kelly Moyer, the Tails of Hope founder who rescued the cats, testified during Thursday's hearing that the garage reeked of cat urine and feces when she first stepped foot in it in June. Because the long-haired cats had never been groomed, their fur was matted to the point that many could barely move.

"You couldn't tell that they were cats," Moyer said. "They were covered in feces."

Using a cell phone as an improvised light, Moyer and a few volunteers walked on a floor slick with cat urine to get the cats out of the garage. Moyer testified that the Badalpours were not much help.

"He wouldn't speak to me," Moyer said about Jorjick, who was the only Badalpour present at Thursday's hearing. 

Moyer said that when Badalpour did attempt to assist her, he just made things worse.

"He grabbed a cat by its tail and said, 'I think this one's dead,'" she said.

'My marriage was in jeopardy'

During the hearing, Badalpour expressed appreciation to Moyer and those who took the cats out of his garage. Badalpour had been reaching out to local animal shelters trying to find a group willing to perform such a service. 

"I appreciate your help completely," he said.

His appreciation shifted to dismay, however, after administrative hearing officer Scott Levenfeld handed down the over $21,000 fine. 

"I don't have the money," Badalpour said. He told Patch he had recently declared bankruptcy and his house is on short sale. "They pulled the rug under me."

Though Badalpour admitted his family "fell behind" in their care for their cats, he didn't think he'd face such costly repercussions once a group saw what condition the garage was in.

"Do not call these people, because they slam them with the book," Badalpour said about Tails of Hope. 

Badalpour told Levenfeld during the hearing that his wife was the primary carer for the cats, and that the trouble started when she fell ill about a year and a half ago. Though he wanted to get rid of the cats then, he knew his wife wouldn't stand for it.

"My marriage was in jeopardy," Badalpour said. "If I were to say to her, 'Me or the cats,' she would have said, 'Cats.'"

Things got worse, he said, when his daughter's epilepsy grew more severe.

"My wife loved cats, she took care of them better than I did," Badalpour said. "Then she got ill and my daughter's epilepsy got worse."

At that point during his remarks, Badalpour broke down and began weeping.

"This is not about my cats," he said in between sobs. "This is about my daughter's health."

'The court has an obligation'

For city attorney Andrew Fiske, however, the hearing was very much about the cats. During his questioning it was revealed that 80 percent of the garage floor had been covered in feces. Many cats suffered upper respiratory problems and all needed to be shaved because their fur was so matted.

"It's literally beyond belief… that anyone would allow this situation to exist," Fisk said.

Fiske questioned two women who helped Moyer rescue the cats as well as the the officer who cited Badalpour for animal cruelty. They testified that four of the rescued cats died as a result of their poor living conditions. Some cats had their tails amputated. Some had skin that was so rotted it made one of the technicians throw up.

"The cruelty and disregard," Moyer said, "I've never seen anything like it."

Before handing down his decision, Levenfeld expressed his sympathies to Badalpour for his family's health problems.

"The court is sympathetic," he said. "But the court also has an obligation to enforce the laws as they're written."

Levenfeld found Badalpour liable for Keeping Animals in Unreasonably Offensive Conditions, fining him the maximum $500 plus $40 court fees. Then he found him liable for all 21 counts of Unlawful Treatment of Animals, and fined him the minimum $1000 per count plus another $40 court fees. The total fines levied against Badalpour were $21,580.

After the hearing, Badalpour seemed stunned. He sat in a chair outside the conference room in city hall, wondering how he would be able to come up with the money to pay the fine and wishing he had never called Tails of Hope to begin with.

"I expected a fine … but I can't pay that," he said. "Had I known this was going to happen, I would have done something else."

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Steve August 17, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Good luck collecting this fine, HP. What enforcement tools exist? Guy is already bankrupt.
Doug Purington August 17, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Treatment of animals in this manner should be treated no differently than the treatment of humans in the same manner! Animal neglect runs rampant in this country...we only hear about those cases that reach the news media...and the appropriate laws should be made more strict and the punishment more severe in the hopes of deterring such neglect and disgusting treatment and encouraging more HUMANE consideration of animals. Humans wouldn't stand for it...why should animals have to? The Golden Rule needs application here!
Jeff Wheeler August 17, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I know I will get some backlash on this comment from readers, but please hear me out.... I see both sides of the story. According to the article, Badalpour tried contacting shelters before and Tails of Hope was the only one who took them on (Thank you Kelly). While he probably should have done it much sooner, there should be some consideration given to his efforts. The police have Animal Control who might have been more assistance if the Badalpour family had contacted them sooner. If his family is as sick as he testified I'm sure he had many other things on is mind. This is no excuse for leaving a bunch of dead or dying animals in your garage. Animal control should have been called to take them away if the rescue operations he claims he called would not have been of assistance. The city will unlikely be able to collect, especially if his Bankruptcy case is still pending or was pending when he was cited. Monetary Administrative judgments usually get discharged. The Judge can and should enforce the laws and the fine is appropriate for the circumstances and length of time he left the cats in the garage. There might have been alternative solutions, such as community service or other forms of disciplinary actions that would serve as a punishment. Highland Park should reach out to the resident to see if the family would be willing to accept a compromise of lengthy community service in lieu of a fine. At least there is some assurance the community service will be done.
David Greenberg August 17, 2012 at 05:25 PM
lien the house. It has priority over everything else other than taxes. When it sells at some point, the lien has to be satisfied.
Jennie Moore August 17, 2012 at 05:54 PM
TJ, if I remember correctly the only reason he reached out to shelters is because he wanted to sell his house and obviously couldn't because of this horrendous situation. If he had contacted someone way before or not just because he couldn't sell his house, I think he may have had a little bit of consideration.
Bob Minetz August 17, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Great job Andrew. Bob MInetz
Susan Creighton August 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Yes, the money should go to Kelly. She is a wonderful person and did a lot to help these cats. I do not feel this man is being totally honest about his situation. The fine was handed down by the court, not Tails of Hope.
Advocate August 18, 2012 at 12:28 AM
What a horrible person. He should be given weekly community service at a pet shelter for the next 20 years. Only litter box duty and horse stalls.
Adrianne August 18, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I was there when Tails of Hope brought some of these cats into their facility and the smell and matting was unbelievable! What Kelly and her staff did for these cats was incredible, not to mention the money spent on medications, vet visits, grooming, and daily care to make sure that these gorgeous cats never again suffer. I hope that Highland Park understands the expense that Tails of Hope has incurred and that as a not-for-profit organization they should be reimbursed to help them cover all their expenses and more. Animal abuse should never be tolerated and as far as Mr.Badalpour wishing that he had never called Tails and asked for help, sir, if you had done this much earlier before it came such an extreme case of neglect, none of this would have happened. You have no one to blame but yourself!
Sofia K August 18, 2012 at 05:36 AM
First of all.... He says his wife fell ill when she's always traveling. He has a daughter with Epilepsy and another one around 26 years old that simply ignored the fact that there were animals dying in their garage. My little kids wouldn't Stand for something like this! These people should take some responsibility for what was going on inside their house and stop blaming their wife or sick daughter when he and his older daughter are perfectly healthy and capable adults. I can think of 1000 Things that any human being with a soul could have done with those cats instead of simply letting them die slowly and painfully inside their house. There's no compassion for monsters like them!!!!!!!
Chilawyer August 18, 2012 at 07:06 AM
Justice has been served. What a monster, running a concentration camp for cats in the middle of Highland Park, and then arguing he was just following orders from a superior authority (his wife). Glad he will be leaving our town soon.
Steve August 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
David Greenburg - they can lien the house all they want... they are short selling it, so there is no cash at closing... The bank has the senior lien. The city can come in and screw then bank? Doubt it, though I wouldn't cry if it happened.
Meow August 19, 2012 at 03:41 AM
The fine imposed, as just as it may seam is a bullet in the head for this poor guy. When are we going learn...postal, upset at the boss...? These are cats (like cows and chickens), people eat them is other parts of the world dog too. Where is this fine going to go...retirement package for overpaid parks employees? Save the people first! This guys pain is real! Bear and Deer season opens in Wisconsin soon, Death by lead. Think about it.
David Greenberg August 19, 2012 at 09:51 PM
The short sale only affects the mortgage/note on the house. Has no effect on liens. The liens attach to the TITLE, and before the title can transfer, the liens have to be satisfied. So it's not 'screwing the bank' - it's satisfying a senior debt.
Theodore Perez August 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM
The family was in pain and suffering. Animals are not humans. Animals are property. The damage was nowhere near the fine levied. Travel to the Emerging world and you will get your priorities straight. Humans should be our priorities. Shame on the city and all who pursued this ridiculous case. Are you all vegans? No! Are you free of items in your hone that caused animal or worse human suffering? No! Let those in a glass house cast stones. Shame on all! Eat a buger, wear leather, use cosmetics tested on animals and practice your hipocricy.
DontVote August 20, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Cats are just overgrown rats, that people allow in their homes. If you kill a rat, you are a hero.
Steve August 20, 2012 at 02:06 PM
So David, practically, do you think the bank is going to sit on the property, pay carrying costs, taxes, insurance, etc., all while pleading with this guy to pay the outstanding lien? Good luck dragging $21k out of this guy. If the bank wants to get rid of the property, it's going to be the bank that has to pay it. More than likely, it's a foreclosure situation anyway. They want to try to short sale that house for $420k. It's worth $250k max.
Mosaic53 August 20, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Regardless of whether the fines are ever collected, it sends a message that HP will not tolerate any kind of cruelty to animals.
Sofia K August 20, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Wow Meow!!!! You should change your name to cruel!!!! Do u really want to compare Cultural differences here??? Chinese population eating dogs? You just made me think of something else!!!! Maybe they were eating the cats!!!! Ohhhh my Goshhhh!!!!!! That's it!!! I guess they are from Iran and maybe they eat cats in Iran. Seriously..... They purchased 2 cats and knowingly let them suffer for years in that garage. She should be in pain.... In lots of pain and maybe that will make him understand that his family have no business owning any type of pet.
Sofia K August 20, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I meant.... He should be in pain
Doug Purington August 20, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Theodore: As per your ridiculous comments, you are as bad as this couple. Animals should have the same rights as humans! And they are NOT property! They are loving members of our families. If a person willfully kills or mistreats a person's dog, cat or other pet, they should receive the same sentence as if they had killed or mistreated a human! And, if anything, the fine was too light. Some jail time would have fit the bill! How would you like being treated as their cats were? Get real!
David Greenberg August 20, 2012 at 07:05 PM
An unfortunate situation for the bank to be certain, but still not the problem of the lienholder(s). If I had $21K to collect from someone in a fine, and they had property - I'd lien it until I got paid. Nothing personal, just business.
David Greenberg August 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Cats eat rats and mice. In fact, if more people hadn't thought of cats as you apparently do, the Black Plague wouldn't have spread as far as it did in the Middle Ages. Fools killed the cats that could have contained the rats... *sigh* Cats are complex, and remarkable creatures that have an ability to provide one with great insight into the multiverse. Getting to know a cat or two or three in my life has been quite interesting.
A concerned DHS Parent August 20, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I believe (not sure) but think you have to perform a service on the house in order to lien the house.
David Greenberg August 21, 2012 at 05:15 PM
That's one kind of lien - a "mechanics" lien. There's others that attach to the title though :-)
Longtime HP Resident August 21, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Theodore: If animals are property - then the family should take care of their property. Yes, the family may have been in pain and suffering but they should have stepped up much earlier. There are ordinances in place for a reason. This family violated a town ordinance. There are fines that go hand in hand with each ordinance. The letter of the law was followed on this one. Eating a burger has nothing to do with how these people hoarded cats.
Theodore Perez August 22, 2012 at 02:17 AM
All pets are property and strictly such and have no legal status. Check the legal code. The assessment of cruelty is highly subjective and in this case political. Our so called animal cruelty laws are out of control and serve to satisfy pet owners, not animals or even social issues. Cats are the most vicious predators in our urban environment and cause more song bird deaths than any other animal. Don't believe me, ask the Audobon Society. So, are cats worth more than song birds? Not in my opinion. If society is to cherish animal life, why is a cow, pig, or fish worth less than a cat? I can torture a fish with a hook, but that is ok. There is no difference. In all cases, other animals die so we can exist. Any value that you place on a pet is simply your subjective value of a piece of property, just like your beenie baby collection. I'd rather hear song birds than see your cat eat one. BTW: if you have a pet cat, keep it inside to save the birds. If you do let it out, at least the coyotes will be well feed. The Illinois DNR found that the predominant food source for coyotes in urban areas is domesticated cats. Thanks for keeping the coyotes well feed.
Kettlebelle7 August 22, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Nice work, Andrew Fiske! And Tails for Hope as well!! As for Badalpour.... karma's a bitch.
Vickie August 22, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Theodore, To use your logic, cats are no more important than cows, pigs or fish. You also say that cats are no more important than song birds and that the value any person puts on their pet is subjective; no more or less important than a beenie baby collection. Where I get confused is when you write about song birds. If all animals are "just pieces of property" with no real value, a cat eating a song bird, shouldn't be that big of a deal. Just like a coyote eating a cat doesn't seem to be a big deal. Just come right out at admit it - you hate cats and don't care if owners are cruel to them. It would make you sound a LOT more honest and credible. Me? I love cats and think that the treatment of these cats was cruel and necessitated punishment. I also like song birds.
Larry December 01, 2012 at 09:21 PM
This makes no sense. I am not debating the merits of cats; this has nothing to do with them. The man's daughter and wife were dysfunctional. He said his wife would have chosen the cats over him. And he already has no money. The law is supposed to promote public good. He WENT to a cat organization for help which is what he was SUPPOSED to do. And for that he got himself fined a fortune for a woeful mistake. He would have been better off killing the cats and burying them. That is not what the law is supposed to accomplish.

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