Authorities rescued 99 cats — and one dog — in two visits to a home in the town of Wright, and the volunteers now caring for them are hoping for some help from the community. Also, 67 dead cats were found in a refrigerator’s freezer.
The Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department, working with the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley and Schenectady SPCA, secured the dozens of kittens and cats and one old, partly blind dog from the home last week and Wednesday.
Authorities are not identifying the town of Wright woman who surrendered them. Sheriff Tony Desmond said the case is being turned over to the District Attorney’s Office for consideration of criminal charges.
The rescue leaves the Howes Cave shelter in a difficult predicament. Shelter manager Kerrie Colin said the facility is typically capable of handling 46 cats and it was already caring for 20 at the time of the seizures, which brought the total feline population to 119.
“We’re at overload capacity,” said Colin, who said volunteers turned the food storage area into a cat holding room, making use of dog cages.
Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Smith described a disturbing scene he and others found at the home on state Route 146: the smell of feces and urine was pervasive and 67 dead cats were found in a refrigerator’s freezer — each individually wrapped in plastic bags.
Smith said he believes those cats were dead before they were placed in the freezer.
A veterinarian checked out the 102 surviving cats and three had to be euthanized.
Smith said deputies haven’t discussed the frozen cats with the woman yet — the priority was working to negotiate the rescue of those that were alive.
It’s possible the woman could face misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. That will be up to the office of county District Attorney James Sacket.
Smith said it’s his hope the woman might be directed toward some mental health assistance by the court.
The Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, which runs on donations, already goes through about 100 pounds of cat food a week, Colin said.
So food and cat litter are in high demand now, and she’s hoping a donation campaign might help keep the pets healthy until they can be cleared for adoption.
A total of 27 felines were rescued last week, and those are nearing the point where they can be adopted, Colin said.
Many of the cats were severely sick, some with bloody noses from illness. Others were dehydrated and most were infested with fleas.
“These guys wouldn’t have lasted, maybe a week or a week and a half,” Colin said.
They weren’t malnourished, though. She said shelter volunteers started bringing the woman some pet food last year after she called seeking some help.
Colin said she doesn’t believe there was any malice involved. The woman got over her head after taking in a pregnant cat and other people started dropping cats off to her.
She couldn’t refuse them, Colin said, and she wavered over the past months after discussions began about taking the pets away.
Colin said she suspects there are other cases of animal hoarding in the county that haven’t been discovered yet. “I think that more time needs to be focused on getting these people the help that they need,” she said.
Generosity and compassion have been shown already — Merial Pharmaceutical of Malta donated dozens of rabies vaccines for the cats and veterinarian Vernon R. Durie, from the Cobleskill Veterinary Clinic, provided medical care to the animals.
But more help is needed. Colin said the facility could use any cat food and cat litter people could spare.
Those unable to deliver goods to the shelter, located at 304 Howes Cave Road, off state Route 7, can provide financial assistance. The facility’s mailing address for checks and money orders is Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, PO Box 40, Howes Cave, NY 12092.
The shelter expects the first round of pets to be available for adoption within the next two weeks. A later mass adoption clinic will be planned for the 72 cats secured this week.