Sheriff’s office, volunteers rescue 38 cats
“Have you seen ‘Hoarders’ on TV? Imagine that times 100.”
These are just a few descriptions offered by police officials and local residents in regard to the living conditions for 38 cats and one dog in a Ronan woman’s home.
According to a press release, a local bank foreclosed on the Ronan woman’s property on Aug. 14. She was able to take only two animals with her, leaving the majority behind. It is quite possible that without intervention on some level, all 36 animals would have needed to be euthanized.
According to Undersheriff Daniel Yonkin, once the home was foreclosed upon the question became, “What do we do with this many animals?”
Yonkin said that as part of a plea agreement, the animal owner was not charged with any crime. Instead, she was required to surrender her cats to the sheriff’s office. In addition, the woman can own no more than two cats and one dog at a time for the length of the agreement (two years).
Without the means to care for these animals on a long-term basis, the sheriff’s office contacted Life Savers Animal Rescue.
LSAR is a small, locally based nonprofit organization with six volunteer members. Organization members foster the animals in their homes until they’re adopted. LSAR secretary-treasurer Linda Crawford and president Vicky Schiedecker assisted sheriff’s deputies by catching many of the cats once the woman was evicted. Both went into the home several times.
“It was awful, as awful as I’ve ever seen,” Crawford said. “It’s hard to explain a house where a hoarder lives because they collect everything and they have junk piled from the floor to ceiling.”
Schiedecker offered a similar description.
“Have you seen “Hoarders” on television? Imagine that 100 times worse. There was cat feces everywhere, tons of garbage and you had to wear a mask and gloves because the ammonia smell was so overpowering you couldn’t go in without something over your face.”
Schiedecker said about seven cats were kept in wire dog kennels and when they’d go to the bathroom the homeowner would simply place newspaper on top of the excrement. Some of the cases were so filled with feces the cats only had 9 to 12 inches of living space.
“You couldn’t lift them because of the weight of the feces,” she said.
In the back bedroom, rescuers found 10 cats housed in piles of garbage extending 4 to 5 feet up from the floor. Chicken wire doors completed the makeshift kennels.
After a week and a half of hard work by all parties involved, all animals were removed from the home and cared for. Twenty five are currently being housed in a building owned by the Lake County Sheriffs Office in the Polson fairgrounds, and the rest are living with LSAR volunteers.
“Mr. Yonkin, I must say, has been absolutely great to work with,” Schiedecker said. “He’s been so ethical and caring, I can’t say enough.”
According to Schiedecker, Yonkin has been going out to the Polson fairgrounds building and checking up on the cats personally to make sure they are properly fed and watered.
During a one day session, veterinarian Dave Weinandy from Ronan spayed, neutered, vaccinated and treated the cats for worms and ear mites. About half the cats are reported as having a friendly disposition while the other half are either under-socialized or feral. All are in good health.
LSAR received donations from the Mission Valley Animal Shelter, local residents, the United States Humane Society, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical Company and Walmart, to help with the cats.
“It’s something that takes a lot of people to make it a success, but we desperately need homes for these cats,” Schiedecker said. “Good homes, good barns where they can breath some fresh air and just be cats.
“They’ve earned that much.”