Concordia Animal Welfare Shelter finds trailer with 50 cats

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

VIDALIA &045; The smell of ammonia filled the air 30 feet from an abandoned trailer near Vidalia, where about 50 alive and dead cats were found left behind.

Volunteers with the Concordia Animal Welfare and Rescue Shelter (CAWS) had to wear masks due to the smell as they began trying to rescue the surviving cats after being contacted by the trailer’s landlord.

&uot;When I first got there the smell was overpowering. It gave me a headache and made my throat burn,&uot; Donna Maroon, a volunteer with the shelter said.

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&uot;It was dark. All windows were covered and nailed shut. There was no air in there at all,&uot; Maroon said about the conditions in the trailer, which is located on Moose Lodge Road.

&uot;There were flies from the decomposing cats and the cats that were alive were scared and ran from you,&uot; she said. &uot;It was like nothing I’d ever seen.&uot;

The landlord told Lisa Smith, who works with the shelter, the former tenants, a 77-year-old woman living with her bed-ridden and mentally ill 45-year-old daughter, had left the cats behind after moving out.

&uot;I think they started out with really good intentions and it became overwhelming for them,&uot; Smith said.

Cases like these are not uncommon. In fact, they have become somewhat of a phenomenon called &uot;animal hoarding,&uot; Smith said.

&uot;In a typical case, a person is discovered living in squalid conditions with dozens to over a hundred animals, both dead and alive,&uot; according to an article in the May/June 2001 issue of Municipal Lawyer magazine. &uot;Cats and dogs are the most commonly hoarded species, but wildlife, dangerous exotic animals and farm animals have been involved, even in urban situations.&uot;

Animal hoarding has not yet been recognized as a mental disorder.

But reports indicate many hoarders are eventually placed under guardianship or other supervised living conditions, suggesting the incapacity to make rational decisions and manage their affairs, according to the article.

&uot;It’s not a case where we want to prosecute, we want to intervene in a helpful manner. I don’t think their intention was intentional cruelty,&uot; Smith said. &uot;Social services has been aware of their situation for years but nothing has been done about it.&uot;

The trailer’s former tenant’s social caseworker, Winston Davis, referred all questions to the Director of Elderly Protective Services, Bob Seemann, who was unavailable for comment before publication.

The shelter initially rescued eight cats and two kittens that were brought to Vidalia veterinarian Justin Gregg, who ran tests on the animals for feline AIDS, leukemia and other diseases.

Ten cats were given a bill of good health and have already been adopted.

Leslie Jackson of Ferriday was one animal-lover that adopted one of the rescued kittens.

&uot;It’s real scared,&uot; Jackson said about the rescued kitten.

Jackson said she had also adopted another tamer kitten that is helping the rescued kitten to fit in to its new environment.

&uot;When I got up this morning they were playing together,&uot; Jackson said about her two new kittens. &uot;I think he’s going to be OK.&uot;

Rescued felines that are neither healthy enough to adopt or who are not adopted will be euthanized, Maroon said.

Smith, Maroon and other volunteers are putting food and water out for the cats at the trailer everyday until all can be rescued. Smith said all the cats could not be rescued at one time because some are so wild, and due to a lack of funding.

This week Smith and Lynn Latimer, the latter of whom also works with the shelter, are trying to gain emergency funding for the situation. As of right now, the shelter is trying to rescue the felines with $3,000 from Concordia Parish.

The volunteers with CAWS are still trying to gain funding to build a shelter, but meanwhile are doing what they can to assist the animal issues in the Miss-Lou.