Staff and care workers from Pasado's Safe Haven animal sanctuary, near Sultan, performed a massive recovery operation on Monday, April 20, rescuing 71 cats and kittens from deplorable conditions.
The Pasado's response team traveled more than 190 miles to Electric City, in between Wenatchee and Spokane, to accomplish the mission.
The cats were living in a single-wide trailer, filled with garbage, feces, urine, swarms of flies, rotting food and other debris. The ammonia levels in the residence were so high that the team had to be outfitted with respirator masks and full hazmat suits.
"Our director of investigations and rescue operations has been doing this for eight years,GÇ¥ said Pasado's Executive Director Laura Henderson. "She said this was the worst that she'd ever seen.GÇ¥
"A tough situation'
Authorities were alerted to the situation by the property owner, who apparently recognized that things had gotten out of control. During the initial site visit, Pasado's Director of Investigation and Rescue Operations was dismayed by the conditions in the trailer, which were described as "horrific.GÇ¥ She removed two kittens that were in need of immediate medical care. She observed no signs that the property owner was providing the cats with any water.
The cats she observed were underweight, dehydrated and covered in filth.
"It was a tough situation,GÇ¥ Henderson said. "We're really grateful that the woman was cooperative and accepting of assistance, but at the same time, this didn't happen overnight.GÇ¥
Pasado's workers began the rescue mission during the wee hours of Monday morning, leaving for Electric City at approximately 3 a.m., and not returning until after 6 p.m. that evening. Assessments done at the scene evaluated the health of the cats, which were then arranged based on the severity of their condition. A car loaded up with nine of the most urgent cases, was rushed back to the sanctuary.
Staff worked for several hours collecting the rest of the cats, sometimes having to sort through large piles of refuse to uncover them all. During the rescue, temperatures ranged from the mid- to upper-70s as they placed the cats in portable travel crates. A momma cat with a litter of four kittens was located at the scene, along with two slightly larger kittens that had been separated from their mom. One of the kittens was retrieved from under a pile of garbage, while the other was found under some bedding.
"Most the kittens were with their momma, but these two were found in different places in the house, nowhere near their mom,GÇ¥ said Pasado's Veterinary Technician Erin Kelly.
Upon returning to the sanctuary, caregivers worked to reunite one of the kittens with an adult female that had recently been lactating, to see if they could coax her into nursing the baby. Their initial attempts were unsuccessful, so the tiny kittens may need to be fed by hand.
"We'll probably supplement them with a bottle or with another momma,GÇ¥ Kelly said.
Owner may face charges
Pasado's staff coordinated the rescue operation with the Electric City Police Department, who may proceed with formal charges against the property owner. Ten of the cats were taken in by Okanogan Animal Foster Care, and an additional 10 were taken by PAWS, an animal shelter in Lynnwood. Pasado's care workers took in around 50 of the cats on Monday evening, carefully situating them inside "Ruth's Healing Barn,GÇ¥ an isolation facility which includes a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic.
Made possible by a family foundation grant, Ruth's Healing Barn allows Pasado's to provide on-site medical care to their rescued animals. Open since November 2013, Henderson explained that the new isolation facility has broadened their capacity to provide comprehensive care to neglected and abused animals.
"It's really been a game changer for us,GÇ¥ Henderson said. "We're super grateful to have support like that.GÇ¥
Initial medical evaluations revealed that all of the cats were suffering from untreated medical conditions, such as upper respiratory infections (URI), eye infections, parasites and fleas. At least two of the cats will need to have an eye removed, possibly a third. The cats will need to be housed in the isolation unit until they are healthy enough to join the main sanctuary population, as URI is highly contagious and easily transmittable via cat-to-cat contact.
Many of the cats, while full grown, are petite from having lived in such unhealthy conditions.
"It's common in cases like this,GÇ¥ said Pasado's Communications Manager Tami Seegrist McMinn. "They just don't grow.GÇ¥
Despite the hardship the rescued cats have endured so far, Pasado's has great hope for their future. The medical team at Pasado's will work to nurse the cats and kittens back to health, preparing them for adoption. Volunteers at the sanctuary will help with the socialization process.
"I think they're going to be really social,GÇ¥ Henderson said. "The majority of them seemed really, really sweet.GÇ¥
So far, several other animal welfare organizations, in addition to PAWS and Okanogan Animal Foster Care, have stepped in to help, including Whatcom Humane Society, MEOW, Oregon Humane and the Animal Protection Society of Friday Harbor.
Pasado's Safe Haven animal sanctuary has over 22 years of experience investigating cases of animal cruelty and neglect. The 85-acre sanctuary is home to a wide variety of animals, including cows, horses, dogs, cats, llamas, pigs, ducks and goats. A 501C3 nonprofit, Pasado's primary mission is to end animal cruelty, which is the foundation upon which the organization was built.
To learn more about Pasado's or to make a donation, visit www.pasadosafehaven.org.-á
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