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This animal welfare case appears to have staying power

Published: Sun, September 19, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

There are, of course, more impor- tant things in the world than the welfare of cats. Which is not to say that the welfare of cats is inconsequential.

We have a feeling that the Youngstown area is about to get a lesson in the relative importance of cats and the people who care about them.

Last Wednesday, agents and officers from Animal Charity, armed with a warrant, raided the new quarters of the Cat Ladies Society at 2217 Mahoning Avenue and removed about 80 cats. Animal Charity said it was following up on reports that the cats were receiving substandard care. Operators and supporters of the shelter take strong exception to that characterization of their shelter and the care provided there.

Most animal-abuse cases are pursued quickly and relatively quietly. Even those that make headlines tend to fade away.

That doesn’t seem likely this time. The dynamics are different.

It is not Animal Charity’s word against a lone perpetrator; it is one organization’s version of how these animals were being treated against the word of a sizeable number of volunteers.

It is also emerging as a dispute between humane agents who may take a pragmatic view on a broad range of animal-welfare issues and a volunteer group that has defined itself , first and foremost, as a no-kill shelter.

During the weekend, there’s an apparent stalemate. People attending an open house at the Cat Ladies Society shelter said they have received no official word on the fate of the cats that were removed, although there are indications some may have been euthanized.

No official word

The search warrant that was issued by Youngstown Municipal Court has not yet been returned, so there is no official record of how many cats were taken or what other material or evidence was removed from the premises.

Neither have there been any charges of abuse lodged against Kimm Koocher, who operates the facility, or any of the volunteers. Koocher says she has retained a lawyer.

There is no question that Animal Charity performs a valuable service. Its agents undergo training and are certified. They are called upon to respond in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations.

But it is also clear that volunteer agencies, of which there are several in the area, are necessary, even if each takes slightly or even radically different views of what’s best for animals.

The Cat Ladies Society has voluntarily stopped taking animals since the raid, so there’s no way to know the condition of the facilities when there are more than 80 cats in residence, many of them sick. Koocher conducted tours of the facility over the weekend, proudly pointing to its ventilated litter area, elaborate climbing tree and a photo board showing cats lying in beds, on shelves and on the floor in a pool of sunshine. At some point those photos will be held in comparison to the evidentiary photos and video taken by Animal Charity.

Until then, the question will remain as to whether Animal Charity acted in the best interest of some seven dozen cats, or whether it missed an opportunity to work with West Side volunteers who were providing a level of help that money can’t buy.


1CassAnn(252 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I truly believe CLS is going to come out on top. The CLS is a top notch organization and Animal Charity's reputation speaks for itself and rather poorly.

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2jorlando78(9 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I have a great deal of respect for humane officers and the difficult work they do. That being said, I am disturbed by Animal Charity's raid at the Cat Ladies Society. Over the past few years, Animal Charity seems to have deviated more and more from it's original purpose and in many instances has bent or even broken the law, justifyig its actions by implying that the ends justify the means. Their own website states, "...but be reminded that we are a law enforcement agency...". I hate to split hairs, but no they are not. They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that employs humane agents.

Additionally, Animal Charity seems more interested in making headlines than following some of their own purposes as stated in their state-filed amendment to their articles of incorporation in 1978 (which were retained in their latest filing in 1985):

"7. To cooperate with any persons or organization in seeing that humane principles, care, treatment, and measures are applied and used at all times to the custody of and in dealing with animals."

According to Animal Charity, they had visited the CLS at their old location in June, made recommendations for improvement, and returned a few weeks later. At that time, no animals were seized, nor was there any outcry of animal cruelty toward the Cat Ladies. Two months and a new shelter later, the Cat Ladies are suddenly guilty of animal neglect and cruelty? By Nikole Baringer's statement to the Vindy, "...the situation was a bit better. At that time, the shelter was getting ready to move to its new location..." (quoted from article). So, Animal Charity visited the old shelter and saw the conditions in person, but were not compelled to take any action. They only raided the Cat Ladies after they received e-mail complaints? Something doesn't seem right with that logic.

Sadly, I only see a whole lot of bullying and little or no cooperation. Wouldn't it be in the animals' best interests to work with the Cat Ladies to improve the situation? Wouldn't that have satisfied Animal Charity's purposes of education and the provision of humane care and treatment for animals? If Animal Charity had spent the past few months working with the Cat Ladies instead of working against them, this story could have been much more positive for both organizations.

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3Ariel(18 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I am extremely saddened for Kimm and the other volunteers. They are good people and don’t deserve this injustice. I've worked with them in the past and have always had the impression that they are very concerned about the physical, medical and emotional well being of the animals in their care. They take care of the sick cats, give them medication, send them to their vet regularly, and are very responsible. They have them spayed and neutered and tested for diseases.

They know they have limitations, but they never stop trying. They give their lives, money, time, and hearts to the cats and kittens. We need more people like the Cat Ladies in this world.

Unlike Animal Charity, the Cat Ladies feel that every cat deserves a chance. Cat colds are cured with antibiotics. Every shelter has problems with respiratory illnesses--just like schools that house sick kids. Viruses spread due to the close quarters of the institutional environment.

And Cat Ladies DID quarantine their sick cats. Animal Charities did not. The so-called “humane” agents put sick cats and healthy cats together in the same carriers and threw them, unsecured, on the back of a pickup truck during the raid. If they were so concerned about these cats, why didn't they separate them or transport them "in accordance with medical protocol?"

I visited the Cat Ladies' new facility, and it's beautiful, and that's what makes me so sad. The Cat Ladies people--who are “misfits” themselves because of their age and various handicaps--are caring people who just want to give society's "misfit cats" a chance at a happy life.

Would you kill your family member if he/she had a cold? Would you kill your family member if he/she had a disability or was disfigured in some way? Don't animals deserve that same consideration--especially from a self-proclaimed "humane charity?"

Animal Charity is quoted as saying the Cat Ladies shouldn't have spent their money on a new location. But the new location was an attempt to IMPROVE conditions for the animals. There's nothing self-serving about that new facility. It's clearly designed for the well being and happiness of the cats, and it's triple the size of the old location.

Now, I need a few things explained to me. Vindy reporters, here’s your chance at some investigative journalism!

How does the Animal Charity have the authority to shut down a competing charity? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that's a major conflict of interest.

Is it a just a coincidence that a large donation was given to Cat Ladies Society just weeks before the raid?

Why is it acceptable for a probate judge to sign a warrant for "humane" officers?

How can Animal Charity, an organization in violation of BBB standards of accountability, have law enforcement authority? They refuse to disclose to the BBB where they get their funding.

Something's very rotten at 3722 South Ave. Let's find out who the REAL criminals are in this case.

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4burford(95 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I believe it is the Youngstown Municipal Court that approved the warrant.The Court must have had some credible evidence to approve the warrant. Maybe we should wait until the warrant is made public before we come to conclusions.

I also don't think the Cat Ladies are a competing charity because they have different missions.Animal Charity is on Market Street by the way.

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5Ariel(18 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

South Ave. must be the location of their "clinic" or an old address. Doesn't matter--we're talking about the same organization, run by the same people.

South Ave. happens to be the address the BBB lists in its report about this charity failing to meet its accountability standards: http://www.bbb.org/youngstown/busines...

And the fact that the two charities have different missions makes them even stronger competitors. Do they get funding from the same source--the local community? Are they both run on donations? Yes. Then they are competitors. End of story.

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6CassAnn(252 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Burford the judge makes a decision on a warrant solely on what the Humane Agents tell them and we already know the character of the so called Humane Agents. You can't blame the judge.

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7Ginger76(178 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

More will come out on this and its not looking good for CLS...

There seems to be much more to the story but that will be for everyone to judge and decide in the future.

Poor Kitties.

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8Watchandsee(1 comment)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Despite comments of some posters, so far nothing has come out that in any way looks even slightly bad for CLS. So many of the statements made about this case have been wrong. At this point it ONLY appears the the Humane Society wants to delay this until the public stops caring and the cats have been forgotten.

Don't let that happen.

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9becky47(34 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I have to agree with watchandsee...don't let the cats be forgotten that is what Animal Charities is counting on.... Go to their website and email them to release the cats...if we send them enough emails they will know no one is forgetting.

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10tracy0108(6 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

I completely agree. I have been watching the news and the internet and have seen no new stories or progress being made on this issue. CLS is having a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, posted on their website. Make sure you go out and show your support!!

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11melissa68(2 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

My heart goes out to Kimm and all the kittens/cats. This is a great organization..they truely love all the cats that come into the shelter and would never do anything to hurt them. I volunteered with them for several months only ending when my work hours changed...I adoped my kitten from there.
I saw several kittens with disabilities get adopted...What they do is great and hopefully this will come to and end soon..and all the cats will come back to the shelter.

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12CassAnn(252 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Animal Charity League euthanized 64 of 80 of the cats CLS had. How convenient that they destroyed the evidence and there hasn't even been any charges filed yet! This information was on the 11 pm news for wkbn. By destroying all the cats they are slanting things so no one can bring in an impartial veterinarian to say otherwise.

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13Ariel(18 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

This is a clear case of an organization willingly sabotaging a competing charity. How could they kill all those cats while the investigation is pending and no charges have been filed? I suppose they will be cremated to prevent autopsy.

I saw these animals shortly after the Cat Ladies received their large donation. NO WAY were these cats sick enough to be killed. This was not mercy killing. This was just plain old killing.

Animal Charity obviously does not care about animals. The motive is clear: money, power, greed. Where's the public warrant? Where's the proof? Why the silence?

We've been told to reserve judgment until more information has been made public. We're still waiting. Politicians: Listen closely to the people who pay your salaries. You are accountable to them, and your silence speaks volumes about your own guilt. This "little" story may just be the thing that seals your fate and leaves you standing in the unemployment line.

Each day, the corruption and greed of the Animal Charity becomes more clear. These people are murderers! They are the ones who need to be shut down to prevent more unjust killings.

Not only have they robbed innocent cats of their lives, they have also robbed loving people who could have adopted these animals and cared for them.

Vindy reporters, please do your job and investigate. The facts of this case need to be made public. This is not just about cats. This is about corruption, conflict of interest and intentional sabotage by a competing organization.

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14NewHorizons(1 comment)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh my God. My heart is breaking for those lost lives, for Kimm, for the volunteers at Cat Ladies Society. I have enormous personal respect for Kimm Koocher. She spends her personal income on that shelter, to the possible detriment of her own future. Kimm has years of experience in shelter work as a vet tech. Kimm Koocher is well educated in animal welfare and familiar with medical protocols. Unfortunately, she was dealing with more than she could adequately manage, which results in unintended suffering and death of the same cats she was attempting to help. It is a noble thing to rescue unwanted pets, especially the special needs cats, if you have the resources (time, money, etc.) to ensure they receive proper care and attention. I had been to the old CLS shelter numerous times, and oftentimes the odor of unclean litter boxes was strong, sometimes overwhelming. Most of the time you could easily find several cats and kittens suffering from upper respiratory infection in various cat rooms, with some receiving treatment while others were not. Many cats did not arrive at the shelter in a sickly state, but became sick, due to stress and exposure to viruses at the shelter. Living in a shelter is stressful and affects their ability to fight off common respiratory infections to which our own house pets would not normally succumb. (At least Kimm had an open door policy, unlike another local "no kill" shelter which does not allow visitors in to see the sad state in which they keep their animals.) I felt that CLS wasn't the worst place these cats could be, but it certainly wasn't the best place either. I know of several people who fostered cats for CLS, who after witnessing the sickness and becoming concerned over the strong smells, could not bring their foster cats in to the shelter for adoption out of concern for the cats' future well-being. It is a terrible feeling when you walk into a shelter that is supposed to be "saving" these poor cats and helping them find good, permanent homes, and you realize that instead numerous cats are suffering from illness, unnoticed, while others are being inadequately nourished or medicated, slowly dying in the quarantine room. Things at CLS got out of control, which happens to the most well-intentioned rescuers. The answer? There should be laws on shelters which require regular inspections, perhaps "maximum occupancy limits" based on the size of the rooms/building. Far too many rescuers end up overwhelmed and do not recognize when it is time to say "We are full. We can't handle any more cats/dogs at this time." A mandatory spay/neuter law on cats would also help, if any of our city councilpeople, county commissioners, etc, felt strongly enough about it. I think you will find there were serious, legitimate concerns with CLS, but I also believe Animal Charity is too quick to kill. They appear to kill just about everything they rescue during humane cases, based on the cases that make it into the media.

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15kittycare74(7 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

What ever happened to, what can we do for you kim to help get out of the so called situation, with the so called sick animals. Why counld'nt they come in and say things may be a little difficult right now, and being in the animal business offer a hand to her to get back on track.That is what is wrong with our society today .Everyone says they care ,but really, they don't .Instead they came in unannounced and very rude.I personaly don' think she was over whelmed with anything outside of getting the cats to a larger shelter, where the cats had more room to play, a comfortable place to get well ,and better ventalation, I am so sorry that people who were in the same field of helping animals would stab her in the back instead of offering her a hand.I feel so sad for kim who put her heart and soul into these animals and most of them are dead.I am so sick of hereing human society came to rescue but there intentions were just to kill and that they didn't give it much time or thought ,because they were dead in no time..............animals do have souls .I wouldn't want to be in thier shoes when they meet the guy upstairs .

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