By Denise Dick
Agents and officers from Animal Charity removed more than 70 cats from a Mahoning Avenue rescue facility.
Nikole Baringer, chief executive officer of Animal Charity, said no charges have been filed, and the investigation of the Cat Ladies Society is ongoing.
She said that the investigation started in June at the former shelter location on Mahoning when Animal Charity discovered sick cats and strong odors.
“We talked to them. We wanted to work with them,” Baringer said, adding that agents told the shelter to clean up the facility.
When agents returned two to three weeks later, the situation was a bit better, Baringer said. At that time, the shelter was getting ready to move to its new location, also on Mahoning.
“Since then we received numerous e-mail complaints, and PETA also had received several complaints [about the facility] from our area,” Baringer said.
Those complaints came from former volunteers who had what Baringer called “strong evidence” of problems at the shelter. Because it’s an ongoing investigation, Baringer declined to divulge what that evidence is.
But she said it was strong enough for agents to secure warrants to enter the shelter Wednesday afternoon.
Agents found sick cats that weren’t being treated for their illnesses, Baringer said.
“There are cats with runny noses, runny eyes, diarrhea, upper-respiratory illnesses,” she said.
There also were sick cats mixed in with healthy ones in one area of the shelter, Baringer said.
“You can’t do that,” she said. “Cats transmit disease so easily — from litter boxes, eating, drinking or even just touching their noses.”
Animal Charity also could find no veterinarian who acknowledged treating cats at the shelter, though one vet said he has done spaying and neutering for the cats, the Animal Charity CEO said.
Owner Kimm Koocher couldn’t be reached, but a volunteer who answered the phone at the shelter said the allegations aren’t true.
She declined to provide her name but said the cats are cared for by a veterinarian.
A post on the shelter’s website, thecatladiessociety.com, dated Sept. 11, said a virus has been making its way through the shelter.
“All recouperating [sic] cats and kittens are getting daily medications prescribed by our vet,” it says. “Even though we have quarantined the recouperating [sic] animals, we would prefer to break the cycle of all the germ sharing by having our kitties go to foster homes while they recover. With loving attention, they should recover within a week or two.”
Baringer said that Animal Charity got a list of foster homes that have the sick cats and plans to contact those individuals today.
The cats that were removed, all of those in the shelter, will be examined by Animal Charity’s veterinarians to determine a course of action.
Baringer said that the new facility, which was scheduled for a grand opening this weekend, is beautiful.
“I don’t know who their funding comes from, but instead of putting that money into the facility, they should have used it to care for the animals,” she said.