HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) — A Highland Park couple faces the fines and possible jail time for allegedly neglecting cats living their garage.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, Jorjic and Agnes Badalpour have been ticketed for multiple city code violations, including 21 counts of unlawful treatment of animals and one count related to the condition of the garage where they were being kept.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

The couple bought two cats several years ago and put them in the garage, according to the City of Highland Park, and they multiplied.

The Badalpours were trying to sell their home, and realized the 21 cats in the garage might be a problem, so they called the rescue group Tails of Hope.

The long-haired Persian cats were in bad shape. They were malnourished, emaciated and covered with fleas, and their fur was matted.

Three of the cats died while being treated at animal hospitals in Glencoe and Gurnee, and two had to have their tails amputated.

Retired Waukegan police officer and animal activist Charlie Burleson found the emaciated cats in the home. She said the stench in the neighborhood was overwhelming because of the cats.

“People could smell the stench from the street,” Burleson said. “A neighbor told us she knew something was wrong, but she didn’t want to get her neighbors into trouble. We need to educate people. Animal cruelty can happen anywhere.”

Burleson, of Beach Park, said she took a “tiny,” emaciated, pregnant cat home that soon delivered two premature kittens. The mother cat required a hysterectomy. The kittens, tube-fed by Burleson until their mother was able to nurse them, have survived so far.

Police say each count against the Badalpours “can be treated as a separate offense.” Accompanying fines for the misdemeanor charges range from $10 to $1,500 for each offense and could include imprisonment of up to six months for each offense.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)