The roach infestation at 335 Vermont St. was so bad that neighbors said the windows looked as if they were moving.
So two Buffalo police officers went to the house Wednesday afternoon to investigate neighbors' complaints.
One said that what he found was squalor.
"The roaches were everywhere you looked," said Officer Daniel Quintana of the Downtown District. "The majority of them were pregnant."
The roaches also were crawling to neighbors' houses. Because those neighbors complained, the Erie County Health Department and the owner, Giuseppina Deleo, had tried earlier to get into the house, but the residents would not let them in.
Police refused to identify the four people who lived in the house, but authorities said the occupants are believed to have mental disabilities. They had rented the home for the past two years but as far as police knew, the occupants were not participating in any government program. The four occupants were taken to Erie County Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation.
Quintana said that when officers arrived, one of the residents, about 50 years old, was coming down the driveway and she was questioned about the house. Officers asked her about her animals, and she said she had five cats. She also said she lived with three relatives who ranged in age from 50 to 70.
"It was obvious there was a problem, because we could see very large roaches outside the house," Quintana said. "The smell knocked us over, and we knew there was more than what she was telling us."
Quintana said he knew that she would not let them in the house, and they had no right to barge in, so they asked to look at the cats.
"We told her if we felt the cats were healthy that we'd leave her alone," Quintana said. "She showed us one cat at a time through the door crack, so we asked to come in and look at them."
Quintana said when they got inside, the smell was horrendous.
"There were more than 20 cats in the house," Quintana said. "A lot were diseased and in bad shape. A few were deformed, and the woman told us it was because they had cerebral palsy.
"There was cat feces and urine all over the rugs, and the closets were piled with garbage. There were roaches falling off the ceiling."
Joseph Defazio, Ms. Deleo's son, said the house had been totally redone before the current occupants moved in.
Police called the Health Department and Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to remove the cats. A next-door neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said that on hot days, the roaches crawled to her porch across the driveway.