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Berwyn Home Stuffed With Animals Was ‘Hell Hole,’ Shelter Director Says

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A guinea pig is being rehabilitated at the Animal Welfare League after it and more than 200 animals were confiscated from a single home in Berwyn. (CBS)

A guinea pig is being rehabilitated at the Animal Welfare League after it and more than 200 animals were confiscated from a single home in Berwyn. (CBS)

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BERWYN, Ill. (CBS) – Exotic birds. Kinkajous. A fruit bat. Those are animals you’d most likely see at a zoo, but the animals and more than 200 others were living in a single Berwyn home.

Investigators went to the home on Lombard Avenue after a 14-year-old boy was found dead in the back yard.

CBS 2′s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

A Cockatiel is missing virtually all the feathers on its back. Its spine is visible from malnutrition. Seventy-four birds, four rabbits, a guinea pig and two dogs were encrusted with feces.

Linda Estrada, president and director of the Animal Welfare League, says her investigators told her it’s one of the worst cases they’ve ever seen.

“And they’ve been doing it for a while,” she said.

One hundred and nine cats found in the house had to be put down. They were never socialized and attacked investigators. They also had feline AIDS and leukemia, Estrada said.

Back at the Berwyn house, a fencing company was installing a mesh covered fence around the home.

Five children between the ages of 12 and 18 were living in the house with their mother. Fourteen-year-old Matthew Degner was found dead in the back yard Thursday.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the teen died from pneumonia.

Neighbors say they never even knew so many children were living in the house, in such horrible conditions.

“They looked sad, depressed, like something was wrong. They never talked to any of the other children,” neighbor Denia Lopez said.

Neighbors say their mother was always gardening. They thought the strong odor at the house was from manure used for gardening, not a home overrun by animals.

“My heart weeps for the children, the animals. That was a hell hole,” Estrada said.

Three children are now under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. An 18-year-old is hospitalized for an undisclosed illness.

Their mother remains in lockup at the Berwyn Police Station and has not been charged with anything. Police say no comment will come until the investigation is complete.

All of the surviving animals are up for adoption at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge. The kinkajous were sent to a shelter out of state.

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