Boy, 14, found dead in squalid bungalow housing more than 200 animals riddled with disease. Hoard: More than 200 animals, including dozens of cats 'riddled with disease', were found inside the Chicago bungalow.
The mother of a 14-year-old boy who died on Thursday is under investigation after police found more than 200 animals ‘riddled with disease’ inside their squalid suburban Chicago home.
Matthew Degner's lifeless body was reportedly dragged outside by family members, before police arrived, presumably in the hope that they would not look inside the home.
Authorities did, however, and were horrified by the disgusting environment they found in the more roughly 1,100 square-foot bungalow.
They discovered a menagerie of dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, squirrels, at least one raccoon, two monkeys and two kinkajous.
Sick: Dogs were among the animals rescued from the squalid home, in which a 14-year-old boy was found dead
'Our animal control officers who have been in some pretty horrific and disgusting environments said this home was easily the worst they’ve been in,' sheriff’s spokesman Steve Patterson said.
'The place was colourless. There were no rugs on the floor. There were birds flying loose on the second floor. There were cats running loose on the first floor,' a source told NBC Chicago.
Recovered: Crews from The Animal Welfare League in Chicago helped remove the animals from the scene, where the 14-year-old died from bronchopneumonia
The dozens of cats were found in a particularly bad shape, Terri Sparks, the Animal Welfare League's marketing director to NBC. 'They're riddled with disease, sick and mean,' she said.
Degner was pronounced dead at MacNeal Hospital in West Chicago on Thursday afternoon. An autopsy showed that he died from bronchopneumonia, an acute inflammation of the walls of the bronchioles.
Numerous birds found: Officials said the boy, along with his siblings, was displaying flu-like symptoms before he died
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took custody of three of the boy's siblings, aged between 12 to 17, according to the Chicago Tribune.
They are receiving medical care and therapy. A fourth sibling, who is 18, was hospitalised.
Officials told NBC that all of the children were suffering from flu-like symptoms recently.
Horrific: The conditions were the worst animal control officers have encountered, the sheriff's department said
Is it believed the children were kept in isolation, a DCFS spokesman said, adding: 'Social isolation is one of the most powerful risk factors for serious harm to children.'
The mother told investigators that all of her kids got sick on September 4 with stomach problems, but she said that everyone seemed to be getting better, the source told NBC.
Neighbours of the property in the 2800 block of Lombard Avenue told NBC that the children never went to school and that the family had lived in the home for about eight years.
Diseased: Even rabbits were found running wild in the house
The children were extremely malnourished, neighbours said, and it is suspected they never saw medical care.
Officials told the Chigo Tribune it was unclear whether the animals or living conditions were responsible for the children's illnesses.
Birds were flying freely in the home and dozens of cats were sick, hungry and surrounded by faeces. Animal Control also found dogs, rabbits, squirrels, one raccoon, two monkeys and two kinkajous, according to NBC.
The Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge helped remove the animals, bringing 196 of them to their southwest suburban shelter.
The more exotic animals will be taken out-of-state to an undisclosed rescue sanctuary, said AWL Director Linda Estrada.
Crews from the AWL, the region's largest humane society, were on the scene in hazardous materials suits, NBC reported.
'They're hungry. They're thirsty. The cages aren't cleaned. It's bad,' Estrada said of the animals.
The mother is being held at the Berwyn police station. No charges have been filed.
Anyone wishing to help with the rescued animals can visit AnimalWelfareLeague.com or call (708) 636-8586.