Today, while our efforts to help pets in Joplin, Mo., continue, other members of our Animal Rescue Team are a thousand miles away in Florida caring for nearly 700 cats we just saved from a horrible case of animal hoarding—triggering one of the largest cat rescues in American history. Alachua County Animal Services, concerned for the health of these animals, called on The HSUS to help assist in the investigation and to remove and care for the cats. Our director of animal cruelty investigations, Adam Parascandola, sent this report from the massive rescue operation:
Julie Busch Branaman
A friendly cat nicknamed Velcro.
When we first accompanied local officials onto the property on Tuesday, we expected to find about 350 cats based on previous reports. However, as we walked through a maze of outdoor pens and buildings, it quickly became clear that there were many, many more than that. There were cats everywhere—cats in cages in an old barn, in outdoor pens throughout the property, in additions to the house, inside cages on the front and back porches, and in gazebos. The Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary had a permit allowing for 200 cats, and they were obviously well beyond that capacity. We removed nearly 500 animals on Tuesday and about 200 more yesterday.
A wonderful veterinary team from the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida is on the scene to examine the animals and provide emergency care. They’ve found significant disease and many medical issues, including untreated injuries, severely underweight cats, upper respiratory infections, skin conditions, and feline leukemia.
We found several cats with such severe eye infections that one or both eyes will likely have to be removed. One cat, whose condition is especially heartbreaking, has a raw, open wound where his entire top lip is missing. We have high hopes that the vet team will be able to save him.
Most of the cats were very friendly and craving human attention. When we walked into the pens, many of them would swarm us, rubbing against us and crying for attention. We’re calling one cat “Velcro” because he climbed up the pant legs of everyone who came near him. When I entered his pen, he climbed up my leg, snuggled into my arms, and proceeded to nuzzle and lick my face. He is a true charmer, and I look forward to seeing him find a great home where he can receive the attention he craves and deserves.
Although there are so many terribly ill cats who appear to have received very little veterinary care, we are hopeful that with such an incredible team of passionate rescuers, vets, and caretakers, we will be able to rehabilitate the majority of them and find them new and loving homes. There, they can receive appropriate care and just as importantly, the love and affection they need.
The ASPCA’s forensic services team assisted Animal Services with documenting the conditions, PetSmart Charities donated essential supplies, and staff from The HSUS and United Animal Nations are caring for the cats at an emergency shelter in Gainesville until their custody is determined. Today is already a better day for these animals, thanks to your support that makes these life-saving rescues possible.