CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dozens of cats were removed from inside a Charleston home Tuesday afternoon.
Officials with the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association, the Charleston Police Department and Charleston Fire Department responded to a home on Lower Donnally Street in Kanawha City to seize more than 45 feral cats.
The homeowner was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
“It’s a situation that we think got out of control,” said Jessie Shafer, director of development at KCHA.
One kitten was found dead inside a freezer. Shafer said the other cats were visibly sick.
“The cats need immediate medical care,” she said. “Their hair is falling out.”
Shafer said the smell was overwhelming and that the ammonia became a public safety issue. There was approximately five inches of cat feces inside the home. Officials, including Shafer, were required to wear hazmat suits during the emergency seizure.
“We just turn over a piece of furniture and five cats come out. As soon as you think you kind of get a head in there, more cats are there,” Shafer said.
On Tuesday morning, an injunction was filed by Charleston City Attorney’s Office for humane officials to gain access to the house.
Kaitlyn McKinney is the girlfriend of one of the neighbors in town. She said her and her friends noticed the smell a few months ago.
“You could start to notice the signs. You could see the cats in the windows. You could smell it,” McKinney told MetroNews. “They were like ‘yeah, we have a crazy cat lady neighbor and she had like 80 cats and it smells awful.'”
Shafer said there doesn’t appear to be any animal abuse, but that the cats were neglected.
“We don’t know if there was any malicious intent here. More than likely that was not the case, however, neglect is happening and it’s our responsibility at KCHA to ensure the health and the safety of these cats and that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.
The cats will be treated at the local clinic. KCHA typically conducts medical assessments on scene, but Shafer said the cats were too stressed out. Humane officials plan to conduct those assessments at the shelter.
Shafer said the homeowner is not facing criminal charges at this point. Neighbors, including McKinney, said she hopes the homeowner and animals are able to get the help they need.
“I really hope that she gets help and I really hope they clean up the house. Most importantly, I hope those cats get the homes they deserve,” McKinney said.