FREMONT — Barbara Shockley never imagined that rescuing three cats from the winter cold seven years ago would result in an animal-cruelty officer showing up with a warrant at her home.
The three cats were never spayed or neutered — she said she could not afford it — and they began multiplying.
PHOTO GALLERY: Confiscated cats comforted at Humane Society
On Monday, the Sandusky County Humane Society seized 70 cats, including four dead kittens, from the trailer, located in the Indian Springs Mobile Home Park, 220 Maple Lane, Green Springs, after serving Ms. Shockley, 54, with a search warrant, according to Kelly Askins, Sandusky County Humane Society shelter manager and animal cruelty investigator.
“I didn’t have the money to get them fixed,” Ms. Shockley said. “I would call all of the humane societies and shelters within a 70-mile radius and they were always full and wouldn’t take any of them.”
Ms. Askins said Ms. Shockley is not a typical cat hoarder, who is actively seeking more cats and continues to bring more and more home.
“She had good intentions when she started, I think she just got overwhelmed,” Ms. Askins said. “She was very grateful for our help.”
Ms. Shockley and her sons have moved out of the mobile home and are living with relatives in Clyde. They hope to clean up the trailer and move back into it eventually.
“It’s like the weight of the world being lifted off my shoulders,” she said.
Ms. Shockley was allowed to keep one cat, Bubba, a male orange tabby that is neutered, that belonged to her 17-year-old son. She said she had learned a “big time” lesson and will not take in any more animals.
Ms. Askins said she plans to file cruelty charges against Ms. Shockley and will ask the judge to prohibit her from owning any more animals for five years.
An anoymous caller alerted Ms. Askins to the situation. “He said he could smell feces and urine through her closed doors and windows from a block away,” Ms. Askins said.
Before serving her with the warrant, Ms. Askins visited the home and was told by Ms. Shockley she had only 10 cats and was willing to give up 9 of them, she said.
“I pride myself on trying to help people before [serving them with a warrant and filing cruelty charges],” she said. “But there are some cases where you don’t have a choice.”
Of the 66 live cats taken from the house, 34 had to be euthanized because they either were too sick or too feral to go up for adoption.
“I have never had a day like [Monday],” Ms. Askins said. “I have put down one or two, maybe three at a time. But to put down that many, it was just heartbreaking. I don’t usually cry; I am pretty hardened. But [Monday], I went home and cried.”
Ms. Askins and Megan Hobbs, the shelter’s medical manager, spent Tuesday administering veterinary care to the remaining cats, including testing them for feline leukemia, giving them medicine for internal parasites, treating them for fleas, and giving them vaccines.
One long-haired, orange-and-black cat with green eyes named Denise gave headbutts to anyone who would get close to her.
Another tortoise-colored cat, who was segregated in a cage, gave birth to a small black kitten at the shelter. She already had three, 2-week-old kittens nursing from her, but shelter employees quickly determined those kittens belonged to another cat, Skitty, who also had mammary glands full of milk, and moved them and their mother cat to another cage. At least one other cat appears to be pregnant.
Ms. Askins estimates each cat will cost the shelter about $225 for care. With cat adoption fees reduced to $25 for adult cats because of overcrowding, that means each cat will result in $200 in expenses for a total of at least $6,400, a number that will increase with each new kitten born.
Before the seizure, the shelter was already over capacity with cats — 150 are taking up the space of what normally would be 100 maximum. “We really need help from the community to care for all these animals,” Ms. Askins said.
Donations can be made on the shelter’s Web site at hs-sc.org or checks can be mailed to 2520 Port Clinton Rd., Fremont, Ohio 43420.