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Rescuers capture, remove dozens of abandoned cats



Published: Thu, September 7, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Philanthropists Tony and Mary Lariccia of Boardman gave $10,000 for the cause.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Rescuers used cooing sounds -- and sometimes a little tuna -- to entice abandoned and forlorn cats into carriers.

Proving elusive Wednesday afternoon was a thin gray cat who limped across Douglas Street on three legs, favoring an injured back foot. It was eventually caught.

While the rescue of dozens of abandoned cats continues at 1317 Douglas St., a vacant South Side house, the city seeks its own humane officer.

City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said the short-term solution is removing the cats from Douglas Street. He said it should come as no surprise that some of the cats may have to be euthanized.

For the long term, inquiries are being made about the training needed for someone to become a humane officer for the city, Macejko said.

"Additionally, it is our intention to seek this training for police officers who would be willing to assist in or provide these services when the need arises," he said Wednesday.

About the situation

The city was left in the lurch last Thursday after an untold number of dead cats, along with 40 to 50 starving ones, were discovered at the Douglas Street house. Animal Charity on South Avenue could not respond because Jason Osborne, who was hired late last year, lacks humane-agent training and certification and cannot enter city properties.

Jennifer Houser, Animal Charity program director, said Osborne will complete the necessary training. She said Animal Charity, Mahoning County's only humane agency, worked on a plan over the weekend to rescue the cats.

Dave Nelson was the agency's humane agent before becoming a deputy dog warden for the county. He discovered the abandoned cats while checking out a report of a loose pit bull and has been working toward a solution with the city prosecutor and Angels for Animals in Canfield.

Over the weekend, neighbors on Douglas Street took matters into their own hands to help the starving felines who have been crammed in the feces-filled house.

"We all got together and put food and water out for the cats," said Evelyn Laboy, who lives two doors away. "Then, since it was in the news, we saw people coming by to drop off food."

The woman who lived at 1317 Douglas died in April and her son hasn't been seen in two weeks. Macejko said he is considering charges against the son, Leslie J. Travis III.

Complained to officials

Laboy said she has been complaining to city officials since last year about the house with all the cats. No one, she said, paid any attention until a story appeared in The Vindicator on Saturday.

"This summer, I couldn't have my windows open or sit outside and enjoy the weather because of the smell," Laboy said.

Laboy said she had no idea so many cats were in the house but did recognize some of the odors as coming from decaying animals. Josephine Smith, who lives on Boston Avenue, behind the house, wondered why anyone would have cats they couldn't take care of.

Animal Charity, meanwhile, conferred with Macejko and received the OK Wednesday to capture the cats. With a side window broken, a few of the animals were found on the driveway while others wandered the neighborhood. Some cats, weak and frightened, were found inside.

John Wymer, who lives close by on Jean Street, said the situation -- the smell -- has been very bad for a long time.

"I can't sit on my porch and can't let my dog out alone unless I put her in a fenced yard," he said as he watched the rescue operation. "Who knows what diseases these cats have?"

Help from Angels

Angels for Animals president Matt Ditchey and Diane Less Baird, co-founder, also showed up to remove cats Wednesday. Less Baird said her organization is not a humane agency but wanted to help and made all the necessary arrangements to rescue the cats.

She expressed surprise that Animal Charity, which said last week it couldn't rescue the animals, was at the house doing just that.

Houser said Animal Charity has a garage to hold the rescued cats. Twenty cats were taken Wednesday and traps left out to catch the rest, she said. Contributions are needed from the community and veterinary volunteers would also be appreciated, she said; the cats must be tested for disease.

Less Baird said she had all that covered, with philanthropists Tony and Mary Lariccia of Boardman giving Angels $10,000 for the cause.

The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offered to take the animals and place them in foster homes with the hope they could be adopted out, Less Baird said. Houser said she also talked with the OSPCA about having the cats placed in foster homes.

meade@vindy.com




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