Last week I received a phone call from the ARL to assist in a hoarding case in Story City. There was a person living with an estimated 50 cats. The cats were being voluntarily surrendered by the owner. I was honored by the request for my help, and traumatized by the idea of finding a place for 50 or more cats.
It was made quite clear that the animals involved were being relinquished to the ownership of the Story City Vet, and that it was legally up to her to decide what happens to the animals. I was not expecting to act as a veterinarian on site. The request was for me to find placement for these cats, if possible.
I immediately sent out emails to my rescue groups and friends. I asked them to share the information with other rescues. In most hoarding situations, the cats tend to be quite feral or wild. So I prepared for this by requesting rescue spots for any tame cats or ones young enough to rehabilitate, and requesting farm homes for the newly spayed or neutered not-so-cuddly ones.
My rescue friends came through like firepower! We had placement for 12-18 adoptable cats, and about half a dozen farms willing to take in anywhere from 3-5 feral cats as barn cats. I thank all of my rescue friends for offering their assistance. Your kindness has not gone unnoticed...by me.
The day prior to the clean-out, I called the Story City vet to let her know that I had at least 25 cats covered. She was not available, so I left the message with the staff.
The next morning, I reported to the site. From the outside, the house was completely inconspicuous. There was no way you would suspect what was inside this house, by looking at the outside.
I walked up to the vet in charge, and informed her that I had at least 25 cats placed, if she did not mind farm cats being a possibility. She put her hands in prayer position, "Thank you," she replied appreciatively. "I don't care where they go, really." implying that farm cats would be fine. I also informed her that I had a Persian rescue and a Siamese cat rescue that would take any additional cats fitting into those categories.
Knowing I would not be acting as a veterinarian, I decided to help the teams get ready for the capture. I helped carry dozens of carriers to the back door of the house. Each team would consist of 2-3 people. The teams were allowed only 15 minutes in the house as the air would be toxic. The teams were required to wear latex gloves and respiratory masks while inside the house.
The first team went in with cat carriers and a large fish net, and immediately began bringing out full cat carriers. The first team got the most benign of the cats, the cats with less fight or flight in them. The first carrier I carried back held a beautiful longhair Calico. She mewed as we walked to the vet station for her physical exam and evaluation. I offered my assistance to the vet team, and I was assured that they did not need me in that area.
The first team came out of the house, and each time the door opened, a waft of foul odor emanated from the building. I donned a mask and gloves, joined team two, and ventured inside. The amount of "stuff" on the floor made it difficult to maneuver throughout the house. Most of the cats were now in the basement. I was on the main level, so I got my camera out. There were cans, bottles, papers, feces covering almost all surfaces, counters, floors. There were kittens frozen in the freezer.
6-8 inches of feces and urine were piled up in the corners of each room. Many cat litter boxes were scattered throughout this level of the house, but they were filled and overflowing with foulness.
As each cat progressed through the line, I started watching the proceedings. I saw the cutest little Siamese mix kitten and orange tabby kitten being examined by the techs. One had a ruptured eyeball, the other had a severely diseased eyeball. I told them, "I can take them." The techs responded, "They are labeled for euthanasia." I pulled another vet aside, "I can take these two, I can remove the eyes if I have to. It's not a problem for me." She graciously said, "Thank you." told me how wonderful I am, and I planned on taking those little kittens on to a new life.
I called my rescue friend, Amy, who was at my beck and call today to help me arrange and notify my other rescue groups of any information on numbers and temperament of the cats. This was important in case I needed assistance with housing cats as they waited for their spay and/or neuter.
As I am talking on the phone, I notice the vet in charge pick up the carrier with the two kittens that I just agreed to take and start carrying them away. I tell Amy to hold, and politely beckoned, "I can take those two." I started to go back to the phone, when she turned to me and bluntly replied, "No." There was no question about her reply. I was not going to get those kittens. I replied, "Why not?" She repeated, "No." and the conversation was done.
I walked over to Tom Colvin of the ARL and another vet, and said, "You knew this was going to happen when you invited me here, didn't you?'
They asked me what was wrong, and I told them that I wanted to save the lives of those two kittens and the "vet" refused. They consoled me by saying we would discuss it again at the end of the day. And we didn't.
I was told that "red tape" on the top of the carrier indicated that the animals inside the cage were going to be euthanized and here are the two groups. You can see the red tape on their kennels.
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