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Cat Controversy Divides Neighbors In North Richland Hills

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS (CBSDFW.COM) - "This will be number 48," said Tim Flanagan, pulling away a blanket to reveal the cat trap underneath.

The North Richland Hills resident is referring to the feral cat inside. Flanagan says he's been overrun with so many animals he stopped renting the traps from the city and bought his own. "I've had cat feces on the roof... they've ruined my fence... they've attacked our dog, my cat."

He says the staff at the animal control facility know him by name. "I walked in and the lady kind of chuckled and said 'we should have your forms preprinted with your name on it.'"

But Flanagan's not laughing, and neither are his neighbors. Lisa Hubbard says she and her husband have caught at least ten cats. They started trapping after the animals caused damage to their property. "They spray [urine on] everything. We left shoes out because they [were] muddy, had to throw them away," said Hubbard. "We can't use the vents in our car because they've been sprayed." Gina Brady says the same thing happened to her son's car. "This is a family suburban neighborhood. We just don't need all of these feral cats running around."

At least half a dozen neighbors say one woman is to blame: Suzy Oujesky, who lives on the street behind Flanagan's house. "She's always got food out for the cats," said one neighbor, who did not want to be named. As Flanagan puts it, "she's very passionate about the cats... and I think she has a problem."

It's not just about feeding the cats. They say Oujesky gets angry when the animals are trapped. Flanagan showed CBS11 surveillance video of a person pacing in front of his gate at night, shining a flashlight down his driveway. He says it was Oujesky, checking his traps at 1am. The next morning, his cameras captured Ojesky pulling up to the front of his home with a ladder sticking out of her BMW. She can be seen setting the ladder against his fence and climbing over. Flanagan says Oujesky crawled under his trailer to open a trap and set a cat free. "I was so mad!" He called police to file a criminal trespass charge. According to the police report, Oujesky admitted to climbing the fence and told the officer the cats "need to roam free." According to the report, Flanagan showed the officer the video and told him he wanted Oujesky to be cited. Flanagan says the officer told him Oujesky was cited, but according to North Richland Hills PD, a detective later assigned to the case closed it without writing a ticket -- she was not cited.

Editor's note: CBS11 originally reported that Oujesky was cited for criminal trespass, but the detective never wrote a ticket.

Public records requests show neighbors have called Animal Services at least 68 times since 2011. "I called, complained, sent them police reports," said Flanagan. "I've sent probably 250 pictures of cats on my fence." Neighbors say little has been done, and they wonder if Oujesky's political connections are the reason why. They showed us letters they received from Oujesky, which say her sister-in-law is on North Richland Hills' City Council, and her brother is a former federal judge. "She will throw out who she knows at the drop of a hat," said one neighbor. "You know, it's threatening."

One formal complaint filed by a neighbor says "I have been threatened by this neighbor previously by letter, by email and in person." Another says "she continues to accumulate more and more cats and does not keep them indoors."

Court records show Oujesky received two "Animal at Large" citations in 2016 and 2017. She is currently facing a third citation, but that case has not yet been resolved.

We went to Oujesky's home but she would not open the door. She did tell us that she is no longer feeding the cats and "nobody gives a crap about this." At first Oujesky denied writing the letters, then said she only mentioned her relatives to "let [neighbors] know I'm an upstanding citizen and I come from a good family." She later told a CBS11 producer that she never meant to cause problems and that most neighbors didn't have a problem with her feeding the cats. She blamed nearby construction for driving the animals into the neighborhood, and said that after she was ticketed she stopped putting out food.

Council member Rita Wright Oujesky declined to comment for this story and pointed us to the city's spokeswoman. Public Information Officer Mary Peters told us the situation "was not handled effectively" but that it had nothing to do with the council member. She said there have been "performance issues" with Animal Services and that the City Manager's office has addressed the issue by hiring new leadership, implementing new policies and procedures, and additional training. Peters later sent CBS11 a statement, which you can read below.

As for neighbors, they just hope the cats will go away. "I'm probably going to catch more before it's said and done," said Flanagan. "But if they'll do their job like they should, then this should stop."

Full statement from North Richland Hills City Manager Mark Hindman:

"The City of North Richland Hills understands and agrees with residents' concerns, and we are actively engaged in improving our responsiveness to these types of issues. The City recently hired a new Animal Services Manager who is proactively working to improve the level of service and responsiveness to the residents of our community. We believe North Richland Hills Animal Services can and will do better in effectively addressing this and other health and safety concerns in our community. City staff continues to actively pursue a case in Municipal Court related to this resident and her pets. We understand the resident in this case has mentioned that she is related to a member of the NRH City Council. It is not unusual for people to claim some type of relationship with elected officials in these situations, but this does not factor in to enforcement activity. The North Richland Hills Mayor and City Council members support City staff enforcing codes and ordinances regardless of relationships."

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