Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16717
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat
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Thursday, Sep 16, 2010

County: Travis

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Katie Reed

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Authorities say a 32-year old woman who often acted as an animal rescuer rented an apartment on Southport Drive, but didn't live there. Instead, she used it as a makeshift shelter for some 78 cats she had rescued.

Animal control officers seized the cats from a South Austin home. A third of them were dead.

Most of the 26 dead cats were found in an unplugged refrigerator. Officials speculate they died from a respiratory illness.

The majority of the rescued cats are now at the Town Lake Animal Center where they have been treated and put up for adoption. The Austin Humane Society and Austin Pets Alive! also took in a number of the cats.

"These kitties have some special needs, and we're really hoping that the public will come out and adopt and create some happy endings to a really horrible situation," said Frances Jonon, Executive Director of the Austin Humane Society.

The woman who was keeping the cats has not been charged with a crime so far. Investigators say she could face charges of neglect, abandonment or abuse, all of which fall under the same animal cruelty statute.

The investigation continues into how the woman amassed so many cats.

Carole Barasch with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department said the woman was not a volunteer foster for Town Lake Animal Center, but she was a volunteer foster for other animal rescue and welfare organizations in the area.

"Five of the cats were adopted by the individual directly from Town Lake Animal Center through our adoption program," said Barasch. "But we disallowed her adopting additional animals several months ago because we had concerns that she may have more cats than she could adequately care for."

Austin Pets Alive! released a statement regarding their involvement that read, in part:

"We hold ourselves to the absolute highest standards of animal care, stewardship, and transparency. We have been informed by TLAC authorities that 5 of the 75 (sic) seized cats were originally saved by us from TLAC's euthanasia list. According to our records, one of those five was adopted by the individual in question directly from us. Although APA performed a home visit at the home of the individual, we are saddened to learn that it was not the residence in question. We do not know how she acquired the other cats from multiple other adopters but we are looking into it. It is troubling to us that an animal that passed through our hands could end up in such a circumstance, and we will revisit our protocols, starting today, in hopes of preventing any of our animals from entering such a home ever again.


Case Updates

A suspected cat hoarder faces animal cruelty charges after police said she kept more than 70 cats in an abandoned apartment - and that all of them were either dead, sick or injured when found by the authorities.

A warrant has been issued for 32-year-old Katie Reed, with a bond set at $35,000 and the requirement that she wear an ankle monitor while she waits trial on the charges. But it was unclear Tuesday if she had been arrested.

A neighbor had complained to the apartment manager on Sept. 16 about a strong odor coming from the adjacent apartment, as well as sick cats outside on her porch.

"I observed cats everywhere I looked," one police officer reported after going inside..

Some 52 cats were rescued from the apartment, and 25 more were found dead in an abandoned refrigerator. The survivors were taken in by local rescue organizations to find new homes. Several of the cats were feral and several needed medical treatment. The Austin Humane Society took in about 24. Austin Pets Alive! took in 17. And Feral Folks and Shadow Cats took in about a dozen more.

Reed was a volunteer foster for several area organizations. The Town Lake Animal Center and APA! have both said they either restricted the number of cats she was allowed to take in, or did home visits to make sure she wasn't hoarding. But the cats, as it turned out, were being kept in an apartment in which she apparently did not live and so no one ever checked that space.

On that day in September, police arrived on scene at the same time the apartment building's manager and a maintenance man were also coming to check on things. The manager told police she had already started eviction proceedings against Reed because the apartment was in such poor condition. The manager said Reed had told them she was locked out of the apartment, and was on her way there.

According to the affidavit, police could smell the cat urine before they got to the front door. When Reed arrived, she circled the complex parking lot a few times in her Honda Accord, waving at the officers. Police could see several cats in the car, in her lap and on her shoulder, as she drove. Then she parked - crooked, under a tree, with a tire on the curb - in the space furthest form the apartment, though several were open that were closer.

Police said that she left the car running, with one window down. She got out barefoot and appeared "disheveled," covered in cat hair and fresh scratches - some of which were still bleeding - and with what appeared to be dried paint and debris in her hair.

"She appeared as though she'd been sleeping in her car," the affidavit said.

When the group went inside, the first thing they saw was a dead black-and-white cat blocking the front door. Reed explained that the cat probably had died because she had been locked out the night before, police said. Then, investigators got a look at the rest of the apartment. There was very little furniture in the apartment, a refrigerator was turned on its side, and the stench was so bad that police said they had trouble breathing even through surgical masks.

"I observed cats everywhere I looked," an investigator wrote in the affidavit. "There were cats on top of the kitchen counters, kitchen cupboards, in the fireplace, in the closets, in the bathroom, and throughout the floors (sic). Some cats seemed friendly, and others appeared feral and trying to hide. All the cats I observed were either sneezing or had green discharge coming from the nose and eyes. At least one cat I observed had an open abscess ... This cat appeared very skinny and had trouble keeping his balance when walking."

When investigators open the unplugged refrigerator, more than a dozen dead cats were found inside.

Police then checked on the cats in Reed's car and found two dead cats in the passenger seat, with "two live cats hugged up to the dead cats." Between 10 and 15 cats were in the car, and all the live ones were sick, police said. The seats were coated with cat urine and feces.

Crime Clean of Texas, a private company hired by the building management company, discovered gross filth throughout the apartment, along with associated structural damage.

The company found a high level of ammonia, commonly associated with cat urine, in the apartment and warned that women who are pregnant, or may be pregnant, should not enter into the apartment. Other observations made, according to the police report, were that feces was "readily visible on doors, woodwork, flooring, baseboards, windows and walls...concrete and wood are urine-soaked and have ground-in feces..all tack board and baseboards were soaked with urine in all living areas...ceramic tile and grout are saturated with urine and ground-in feces."

The entire apartment, basically, would have to be gutted in order to make it a safe and sanitary place to live again, police said.

The cruelty to nonlivestock animals charge is a Class A misdemeanor.
Source: kxan.com - Oct 26, 2010
Update posted on Oct 28, 2010 - 3:02PM 

References

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