Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16489
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat
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Thursday, Aug 26, 2010

County: Park

Disposition: Not Charged

Person of Interest: Clifton Taylor

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Authorities worked throughout the day Thursday to capture, examine and care for more than 170 cats found at a rural home near Powell.

More than 25 workers with the Park County Sheriff’s Office, the Wyoming Department of Family Services and the Humane Society of the United States, along with local volunteers, were helping to remove cats from the house less than three miles south of Powell.

“You wouldn’t believe what we were dealing with on a daily basis,” said Miki Nesbit, who lives in the house at 940 Lane 11 with her sister, Mimi Taylor, who is married to homeowner Clifton Taylor.

“It’s just been a nightmare for many years,” said Nesbit, who finally contacted law enforcement earlier this summer after she could no longer stand living in the house, which she said was “filthy.”

“We never even knew most of the cats resided here,” Nesbit said, although she acknowledged knowing there were dozens of cats in the house.

Nesbit praised workers who spent the day removing cats from above the ceiling and even from inside pieces of furniture.

“I guess they can develop into this large amount over time,” she said.

“We were living in flies year-round. They were here in hordes, even in the refrigerator,” Nesbit said.

Before Thursday’s seizure, police visited the property, and Family Services staff members were also consulted, she said.

“They were investigating us for about a month, so we kind of knew something was going to go down,” she said.

Nesbit described her brother-in-law, Clifton Taylor, 83, a retired auto mechanic, as a “hoarder” who could not give up the cats or other material items.

“Clifton is not clean,” she said.

Nesbit said the cat seizure was a “blessing in disguise,” and that she was relieved to have it over. She is considering moving but does not want to leave without her sister, an identical twin.

“It’s not a good situation, either for the occupants of the house or the animals,” Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric said.

Humane Society workers reported finding animals with what they described as “significant medical issues,” includ-ing upper respiratory infections, ear mites, tumors and emaciation.

“It’s definitely pretty unsanitary. There are high ammonia levels,” said Adam Parascandola, director of animal cru-elty issues for the Humane Society, based in Gaithersburg, Md.

Parascandola said floors and other surfaces in the house were soiled with cat urine and feces.

Because the cats pose a risk of disease to other animals and there is inadequate room at local shelters, they will be held temporarily at a makeshift shelter at the Park County Fairgrounds in Powell.

The cats will remain there until legal and logistical issues can be resolved and they are healthy enough for further transport or adoption.

Humane Society specialists helped design and create the shelter.

After several hours of capturing and processing cats Thursday, Parascandola had at least one noticeable scratch, and his shirt was covered in many different colors and styles of cat hair.

The wrangling efforts progressed without incident, at least as observed from outside the house, with workers passing cats out the front door in individual cat carriers every few minutes.

A couple of distressed cats called out briefly, but most seemed unfazed by their removal and waited quietly for their ride to the temporary shelter.

Workers used face masks because air inside the home could be hazardous, Parascandola said.

Parascandola said the Park County Attorney’s Office contacted his organization about a month ago for help in planning and executing the removal of the cats.

“It was an operation that needed a great deal of coordination,” Skoric said.

“We clearly did not have the shelter resources here to handle the number of cats we have,” he said.

Humane Society workers were “highly organized and prepared, and we appreciate their assistance,” Skoric said.

Parascandola said owners who hoard pets often start with good intentions, “but when animals are suffering, the law must be enforced.”

While some cities have specific pet ordinances, Skoric said there is no Wyoming or Park County law capping the number of cats an individual may keep. But state laws require that all animals to be properly fed and cared for in a humane manner, he said.

Skoric said the last major case he could remember in Park County involving a large number of animals was in Cody in the early 1990s.

“Since I’ve been here in the last eight years, we haven’t had anything like this,” he said.

The Humane Society provided a large tractor-trailer transport vehicle, food, cat carriers, medical supplies and other assistance, including veterinary specialists who helped examine and treat the cats, Parascandola said.

Working under the supervision of law enforcement, the charity also helped document the condition of each cat taken from the house, he said.

Such information in other cases has been used in animal cruelty investigations and prosecutions, he said.

The charity assists with 12 to 15 such hoarding cases per year in locations around the country at a cost of $40,000 or more for each one, Parascandola said.

The Humane Society typically does not seek reimbursement for its expenses in such cases.

“We’ve done ones with 600 cats,” Parascandola said. “We did two other ones in the last few months with 120 or 130.”

He said the Humane Society had about 10 workers at the house and eight others at the temporary shelter.

Workers have nets and other special tools they use to help catch cats, and they also set live traps in places where they think the animals are likely to seek refuge.

“Some of them are friendly and you can just pick them up,” he said.

But as the capture efforts continue, some cats panic, making a thick pair of gloves essential, Parascandola said.

Though the home was surrounded by a large area full of junked vehicles and other buildings, workers did not believe there were many feral cats in the area.

Parascandola said it appeared that almost all the cats were kept indoors, and that there were some pregnant cats, nursing cats and kittens in the house.

Nesbit said she had consulted an attorney and was advised that it would be cost-prohibitive to mount a legal effort to keep the cats, and that it would also be too costly to pay for their care during any protracted case.

As of midday Thursday no charges had been filed, Skoric said.

Nesbit said she believes it might be possible to keep three of the cats.

A court date has been set for early next month, Nesbit said, likely to address the cats’ future.

“I want my Blondie. He’s a baby, a yellow tabby who has diabetes,” she said.

Nesbit said Blondie has a constricted urethra due to “weight issues,” and she gives him a relaxant and administers insulin by syringe twice daily.

“I want my Angel. I have to give up Jackson, who is beautiful. Oliver is white, he’s a flame. They both are so loving and so playful. They’re all of maybe 7 or 8 months, but they have wonderful temperaments,” Nesbit said.

“My sister has Ping and Pong. They’re both orange tabbies. She has another tabby named Pretty,” she said.

Nesbit said she hopes the dozens of other cats will go to good homes.


Case Updates

Front Range animal shelters are preparing to care for more than half the 157 cats taken last week from a home in Powell, Wy.

The Dumb Friends League in Denver will take 61 of the animals, and another 20 will go to the Larimer Humane Society in Fort Collins.

Some of the cats will be up for adoption quickly, but others will be held for medical care and socialization, said Dumb Friends spokeswoman Sheri Tuffield.

"Some were quite emaciated," she said. Some have upper respiratory infections, ear mites and other conditions.

The Humane Society of the United States helped local authorities to remove the animals from the home in Powell, about 30 miles from the Montana border.

The house is owned by Clifton Taylor. Most of the cats belonged to Taylor's 63-year-old wife Mimi, Clifton, he said in an interview with the Post today.

"I didn't know she had so many of them, I knew there was about 50 but never dreamed there would be so many of them. I was providing the food for them, it was about to break me," said Taylor, 79.

"She is so soft-hearted she couldn't get rid of them. I loved her so much, I put up with it," Taylor said.

Taylor's sister-in-law, Miki Nesbit contacted law enforcement earlier this summer about the cats, Taylor said.

Nesbit couldn't be reached on Sunday. She told the Billings Gazette: "We were living in flies year-round. They were here in hordes, even in the refrigerator."

Floors and other surfaces in the house were soiled with cat urine and feces and cats were found inside furniture and above the ceiling, according to the Gazette.

Taylor said he misses some of the cats, who belonged to him and a few of his wife's as well. "I had six or seven and she had two or three I was really fond of. A lot of them weren't tame," he said.

Under normal conditions, the Dumb Friends on S. Quebec Street, wouldn't have room for such a large number of felines during the summer months.

However, adoptions have picked up since the shelter waived adoption fees for cats in late July. Since July 28, nearly 1,200 cats and kittens have been adopted, Tuffield said.

When the waiver is not in place less than half that number are adopted in a similar time period, she said.

The Dumb Friends is waiving adoption fees for all kittens and cats through Sept. 5.

All of the cats will be delivered by truck to the Dumb Friends League. Staff from Larimer Humane Society will pick up 20 of the cats and bring them to Fort Collins.

People interested in adopting one of the cats should call the Dumb Friends at (303)751-5722.
Source: Denver Post - Aug 29, 2010
Update posted on Aug 29, 2010 - 11:20PM 

References

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