By Elise Franco
A settlement with the city prosecutor helped the Cat Ladies Society get its facility reopened without facing criminal charges.
Since mid-September, Jay Macejko, Youngstown city prosecutor, has been reviewing evidence on allegations that animal cruelty was occurring at the 2217 Mahoning Ave. shelter.
On Sept. 15, Animal Charity seized 83 cats from the Cat Ladies Society after completing its own investigation.
Macejko said late last week that he and Atty. Damian Billack, who represents Cat Ladies’ volunteer Kimm Koocher, came to a written settlement Oct. 25 allowing the shelter to reopen today.
The prosecutor said Animal Charity took photos of every cat seized, so he was able to see the condition of each animal.
“Everyone feels this isn’t a typical animal-cruelty investigation. ... There were allegations against an agency whose expressed purpose is to care for animals,” he said. “It seemed obvious that there was the possibility of criminal conduct. It was not an overwhelming situation, but indications were there.”
Macejko said the agreement stipulates terms the Cat Ladies Society will have to follow to remain open.
Under the agreement, it must:
Have no more than 50 cats on site for six months.
Seek individualized veterinary evaluations and care.
Only distribute medication per a veterinarian’s order.
Maintain the facility in a clean and sanitary fashion.
Submit to unannounced inspections by either the Mahoning County Dog Warden or Angels for Animals.
Properly isolate any sick cats from healthy cats.
Macejko said the Cat Ladies Society agreed to these terms, and the prosecutor’s office agreed not to file charges.
Koocher said she is simply happy to put the entire ordeal behind her.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to doing what we love most, which is adopting out kittens and cats into good homes,” she said.
Koocher said the past six weeks have been tough on all the volunteers, but they won’t dwell on what can’t be changed.
“We still will continue to offer the highest quality care we can to our pets,” she said. “We just want to go forward. We want to make Cat Ladies Society better.”
Koocher said the shelter currently has about 40 felines ready for adoption, which were cats and kittens that were in outside foster care during the September raid.
She said they won’t take in any new cats until the volunteer staff and funding are back up.
Edna Bailey of Youngstown said she’s been a volunteer at the shelter for three years and was devastated when the cats were taken.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I couldn’t even walk in here. It was very difficult for me.”
Bailey said she feels relieved that the worst is behind them.
“I sat and cried when I found out we could reopen,” she said. “Now we can do what we do best.
“It’s like a sigh of relief. I don’t know how else to put it.”