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Cruelty-to-animal charges have been filed against a Holladay couple accused of housing 18 cats in their car.

Augustus and Carolyn Johns, 4003 S. Milky Way (2435 East), were each charged Tuesday in 3rd Circuit Court with cruelty to animals, a Class B misdemeanor.Salt Lake Animal Control Director Lou Lynes said the cats were found inside a Chevy station wagon parked in a vacant lot at 1214 Wilmington Ave. (2190 South). After a search warrant was obtained, he said, the 18 cats were taken and found to be infected with fatal contagious diseases and were later destroyed.

Lynes said he believes the 18 cats had previously been at the Johnses home, which health officials declared closed to occupancy Sept. 2. On that day, they entered the house with a search warrant and removed 29 cats, four kittens and eight dogs. A veterinarian confirmed that the cats were diseased and they were destroyed.

"It was the worst place that I have ever observed in my entire life and career," said Anna Bell, office coordinator of Salt Lake County Animal Services.

"Animal urine and animal feces were all over the home . . . covering most of the furniture and floor," said Patti Fricks, director of the Bureau of Environmental Sanitation and Safety.

"Because of the large number of animals in the home, they had a severe sanitation problem."

Bell said neighbors have complained about the house for years. Joggers on the nearby Olympus High School track have complained to the health department about the strong smell in the neighborhood. She said 12 years ago she and other health officials had been out to the house and found all kinds of other animals including goats and monkeys.

"There were geese in the bathtub and goats in the bedroom," Bell said.

Mrs. Johns admitted that she had such animals at certain times, but said most of them were kept outside and only for a few days. She said she believes health officials have a vendetta against her.

"They're trying to make me inhumane for having animals," she said. "This is going to go farther because we've really had it."

She said she is angry that officials took her cats and says the cats were not diseased.

"If they were fatally diseased we wouldn't have had so many cats," she said, adding that she was not allowed to have her own veterinarian examine the cats as officials promised.

Mrs. Johns said the 18 cats were in her car because she was planning on taking them to a farm to protect them.

"It's ridiculous because that car was really enough for them (the cats). They had not been in there that long of a time," she said.

Fricks said her department has given the family until this weekend to clean up the house, but said they will work with them as long as a "good faith effort" is shown.

A court arraignment has been set for Oct. 20.