Case Snapshot
Case ID: 8255
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: cat
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Thursday, Apr 27, 2006

County: Twin Falls

Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 4 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Janet Louise Rasmussen

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

A Mundy Township woman's persistent complaints helped spark the largest cat rescue in Idaho's history.

Sharon Johnson, a retired math teacher and school administrator, ordered a purebred Ragdoll from Rocky Mountain Cat Resort. When it arrived in November, she was so appalled by the kitten's condition she reported it to various agencies and talked to local newspapers.

"There was no meat on her - she was all hollow by the hips," Johnson said. "Her two eyes didn't track together and were sunken in. She was sneezing and coughing and crying."

And when she contacted Rocky Mountain Cat Resort owner Janet Rasmussen about the problems and received no help, Johnson started rattling cages.

"I thought, 'I'm in really deep with a cat equivalent of a puppy mill,'" Johnson said.

She contacted officials at the Idaho Humane Society and Twin Falls County Sheriff's Department, discovering she wasn't the first to complain about the "resort," though officials had never been able to prove a case.

"Thank goodness she was a squeaky wheel on this deal," said Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of the Idaho Humane Society.

Rosenthal and other Idaho officials raided the breeding and kennel facility in Twin Falls late last week, rescuing 323 cats, many of them covered in feces, ill, underfed and overcrowded.

They also found a locked "dead room" containing decomposing cat carcasses and sick cats.

"I was horrified," said Rosenthal, who described the rescue as the biggest ever in Idaho. "I'm a vet, and I've never seen anything as bad as this.

"I am very grateful to her for bringing this to someone's attention."

On April 27, Rasmussen was charged with 57 counts of animal cruelty, Twin Falls County Sheriff's Department officials said.

Johnson said she bought the cat from Rocky Mountain Cat Resort because she believed - mistakenly, it turned out - that there were no Ragdoll breeders in this area. She found the facility through an ad in Cat Fancy magazine.

A photo of a blue-eyed kitten - "the most beautiful thing you every saw" - that Rasmussen sent to Johnson in an email, and telephone conversations with Rasmussen and a review of the resort's Web site, persuaded Johnson to buy the cat.

"It sounded like she had a good business and was following all of the rules," Johnson said.

Johnson said she paid $600 plus $200 in shipping costs for the 12-week-old Ragdoll, which she purchased as a playmate for one of her other felines, Nigel, a black Persian kitten.

But the cat she saw in the picture looked nothing like the cat that arrived by airplane, Johnson said.

Her cat had a fever, tapeworm, fecal blood, urinary tract infection, ear mites, conjunctivitis and herpes in both eyes, diarrhea and ringworm, she said.

When Rasmussen denied that the cat - which Johnson named HonaLora after a family friend who escaped from Nazi Germany - had health problems and claimed to have inoculated the cat herself but refused to produce records, Johnson changed her mind.

She learned Idaho officials had previous complaints about the facility.

"We've had numerous complaints over the years, but there's not much (on the books) to regulate kennels," said Nancy Howell, information officer for the Twin Falls Sheriff's Department. "We never had anything to act on."

Johnson supplied them with the evidence they needed to prosecute.

"I documented everything and offered to fly out there to testify at my own expense," she said. "I eliminated their excuses and gave them a case they couldn't refuse."

In all, 117 of the cats had to be euthanized. The rest are in an emergency shelter set up by the Idaho Humane Society and eventually will be offered for adoption, Rosenthal said.

Johnson said she's spent more than $1,000 on medical care for HonaLora, who is in much better shape today but still suffers from outbreaks of herpes and takes medication for ringworm.

She's learned an important lesson.

"People should never buy a pet unseen and, if possible, they should take it to a vet first."


Case Updates

Janet Rasmussen has been sentenced to six months in jail and six months probation. Rasmussen, who owned Rocky Mountain Cat Resort, was sentenced yesterday by Fifth District Magistrate Judge Howard Smyser.
Source: KBCI - Nov 1, 2006
Update posted on Nov 1, 2006 - 12:51PM 
The owner of a cat boardinghouse where dozens of cats were stricken with mites, illnesses causing blindness and other sicknesses pleaded guilty to 19 counts of animal cruelty in Twin Falls yesterday.

Janet Rasmussen, owner of Rocky Mountain Cat Resort, also pleaded guilty 51 counts of neglect.

Each count carries up to six months in jail.

The prosecutor in the case pledges he will ask for the maximum sentence.

In all 323 cats were rescued from Rasmussen's business.

177 had to be euthanized.
Source: News Channel 6 - Aug 31, 2006
Update posted on Aug 31, 2006 - 5:36PM 
Prosecutors in Twin Falls are going through veterinarian's reports on all 323 cats found living in filthy conditions in a woman's house last month.
Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs says he's sorting through each cat's file to determine how many counts of cruelty to animals will be filed by the county against Janet Rasmussen, owner of Rocky Mountain Cat Resort.

No charges have been brought against Rasmussen, but the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office requested 57 counts of cruelty to animals be filed against her.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison.

Loebs says he's not planning to bring charges in the case of every ill cat, but wants to have representative examples of animal cruelty so he can get a sentence that that the county feels is appropriate.
Source: KPVI - May 2, 2006
Update posted on May 2, 2006 - 4:02PM 
The Humane Society of the United States and other area businesses have donated veterinary supplies, equipment and other forms of support for the rescue, but more financial support is needed. Donations can be made to:

The Idaho Humane Society Rescue Fund
4775 Dorman St.
Boise, Idaho, 83705
ATTN: Christine Moore

387-2760, or online at www.idahohumanesociety.org. All donations are tax-deductible.
Source: Idaho Humane Society
Update posted on Apr 28, 2006 - 3:38PM 

References


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