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VERONICA FEELEY v. BOROUGH RIDLEY PARK (12/09/88)

decided: December 9, 1988.

VERONICA FEELEY, APPELLANT
v.
BOROUGH OF RIDLEY PARK, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, in the case of Borough of Ridley Park v. Veronica Feeley, No. 85-977, In Equity.

COUNSEL

Edward J. Devery, for appellant.

Gregory G. Stagliano, with him, Ronald J. Klimas ; Of Counsel: Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte & Moses, for appellee.

Judges Barry and Colins, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 565]

Appellant, Veronica Feeley appeals an order of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas which was entered on December 15, 1987. This order declared appellant's house a public nuisance and required appellant to inter alia : keep no more than four cats at one time; to have the cats in her possession neutered, vaccinated, and examined by a veterinarian and; have her home professionally cleaned and deodorized.

In July, 1985, the Borough of Ridley Park (Borough) filed an action in equity against appellant seeking a pre-liminary injunction contending that the conditions of appellant's home constituted a nuisance. The Borough's complaint alleged that appellant's home was in a deplorable state of disrepair, lacking proper plumbing, electricity, or water. In addition, the complaint alleged that appellant maintained approximately eighteen cats on her premises and, because of appellant's failure to adhere to proper animal husbandry, cat feces were present in every room, on every floor, and on the furniture; the odor of cat urine overpowered the premises; and that fleas, flies, and ants infest the entire house, all of which result in a terrible odor emanating from appellant's home.

A preliminary injunction was entered on August 6, 1985, which ordered the appellant to eliminate the odors coming from her home by having the premises fumigated no later than August 19, 1985. The order authorized the Borough to obtain a veterinarian for the purpose of examining the cats on appellant's premises

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 566]

    and also authorized the Borough to enter appellant's premises for a general inspection.

While it appears that appellant initially acted upon the August 6, 1985 order, she again became lax in her housekeeping and, on August 9, 1987, the Borough petitioned the court to find appellant guilty of contempt. At the hearing, the Borough presented witnesses who testified that as a result of the noxious and overpowering odors emanating from appellant's home, they were forced to keep their windows closed. Thus, on August 25, 1987, the Chancellor issued an order requiring appellant to deodorize and clean her home within one week; submit her home to monthly inspections by the Borough's health officer; submit her cats to an inspection by an independent veterinarian; and not increase the number of cats in her possession beyond thirty. Following the inspection and subsequent report by Dr. Peter Herman, V.M.D., the court entered its final order on December 15, 1987, which appellant now appeals.

We are limited in our review of this action to a determination of whether the Chancellor's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, whether an error of law has been made, or whether the Chancellor abused his discretion. Londonderry Township v. Geyer, 113 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 176, 537 A.2d 377 (1988). Moreover, the presence of evidence contrary to the Chancellor's findings does not make them unsupported since issues of credibility and evidentiary weight are within the exclusive province of the Chancellor. Id.

The issues presented by appellant for our determination are whether the Chancellor's decision that appellant's house constitutes a public nuisance is supported by substantial evidence and whether the Borough has authority to ...


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