Animal House Deemed Potential Health Hazard

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As Lisa Harmon sits in jail, awaiting a court date which will not be set until she has undergone a psychiatric evaluation, Gila County Health Department officials have proclaimed Harmon's Mesa del Caballo home a potential health hazard.

It was from Harmon's home that county animal control officers recently removed 64 cats, two dogs, seven rabbits and one horse. She had stashed another 37 cats in a Payson motel room, where their June 6 discovery led to Harmon's arrest.

She now faces 96 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals by neglect or abandonment; 96 felony counts of cruel neglect or abandonment; and one count of criminal damage related to the condition of the motel room.

Harmon continues to be held in Payson Jail in lieu of a $2,500 bond.

"A doctor has been asked to contact the justice court with a date and time for a Rule 11 evaluation," said Cpl. William Carlson of the Gila County Sheriff's Department, referring to the psychiatric evaluation used to determine if a defendant can assist in his or her defense and is competent to stand trial. "As soon as the doctor notifies the court ... a court date will be set up."

In the meantime, some of Harmon's Mesa del neighbors have been "literally cheering" over the county's sudden interest in Harmon's animals and trash-strewn property, according to neighbor Jacquie Lynn Zumach.

"We've spent years trying to get the county to clean up that house, and the condition those animals were in was horrifying," Zumach said. "The dog feces would pile up until you couldn't walk down the street because of the stench. At one point, they must have had about seven horses on that tiny lot, and they were in such hideous, horrible shape it would just break your heart. But nobody would do anything."

"We are going to take action," Dave Pote, the county's environmental health director, said, as he viewed Harmon's property first-hand Wednesday. "We'll approach (Harmon) first, and then the lien holder from there. We'll follow the directions of our county attorney. We need to move as quickly as we can to remove any conditions which may affect public health."

Although Pote could not enter the locked home, Payson health inspector Dave Brown said that he had been inside the residence, and what he saw was "filth, absolute filth. There is definitely a degree of potential for a public health hazard."

"We won't walk away from this," Pote said. "I'm going to go back to Globe and talk to the health department director and explain what I've seen."

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