Rescue groups and cash needed after 150+ cats removed from hoarding situation

Rescue groups from across the Connecticut have stepped up after more than 150 cats were removed from a house in Winsted last week in what town officials call a massive animal hoarding case. But they said more help is still needed.
“We got a call, anonymous call, about a wellbeing check for cats at the home due to somebody that just was concerned,” explained Winchester Animal Control Officer Alicia Campbell.
Campbell, who marked 17 years on the job last Friday, said what she found was unlike anything else she’s seen—dozens and dozens of cats everywhere. Campbell said eight people also lived in the Cape-style house on Moore Avenue, along with two dogs and a ferret. She told News 12 the animals’ owners have cooperated and signed over all their animals.
“It started with a few strays. A few strays leads to, ‘What harm is a few more?’ Turns into now they’re having kittens of their own and it spirals out of control,” said Josh Kelly, town manager of Winchester.
“Hoarding is a mental health issue, and we all know that,” Campbell added.
Kelly said what happened next was a round-the-clock, collaborative, state-wide effort to get the cats out of the house and turn the local elementary school into a temporary shelter Friday.
“We had almost a dozen different other towns that were participating with us.  We had the state of Connecticut Department of Agriculture that was working with us, their animal control officers. All of them did a phenomenal job,” Kelly said. “We probably had near 30 people at the house working on the situation, and we probably had another I’d say 15-20 people receiving those cats.” He said that included town employees from other departments.
Campbell said 50-60 cats went to two different rescues right away last week. The rest have come through the school, including another few caught at the house Monday that were hiding in tough to reach places including inside the walls. Humane traps were set and are being checked regularly. Except for the new arrivals, Kelly said every cat at the school has had a rabies vaccine, a first flea treatment and a preliminary physical exam by a veterinarian.
More than a dozen needed emergency care the first night, and one had to be put down.
“The other cats, they range from some very ill cats that are on medical treatments right now to cats that are healthy and in perfect condition,” Kelly said.
“I would say overall the general health is not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Campbell told News 12. “Most of them are very friendly, but they’re a little stressed out.”
On Monday, multiple cats left the school – headed to Friends of Berlin Animal Control. Sue Daury with Connecticut Cat Connection made the drive from Windsor to pick up seven cats.
“Because we’re a rescue, we’re able to take some of the cats with medical issues as well and take that on. We have a great staff of volunteers that will be happy to help out with these cats,” Daury said.
Another rescue reached out to take 20-25 cats that afternoon. Kelly said turning the cats over to these types of groups and shelters is the ideal situation.
“We’re not set up to keep cats for a long period of time. But our rescues--they know the operation. They know all of the different diseases that need to be tested for. They have access to be able to spay and neuter animals and get them into those homes,” he explained.
Plenty of food and supplies have been donated so far. Kelly called the outpouring of support tremendous. He said what’s still needed is money to help pay for the ongoing vet care and getting the remaining cats spayed and neutered.
“Our goal is to save as many cats as we can and get them into the kind of housing that they really deserve,” Kelly said.
Anyone interested in donating or wanting to learn more can email the town manager.
There’s an ongoing investigation into the cats’ former situation, but Campbell couldn’t comment on where it stands. She told News 12 charges are possible.
Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates released the following statement regarding the case and the preferred outcome:
Accountability does not necessarily mean jail time. It does mean paying back the town monetarily and or with community service. It means an acknowledgement that something is fundamentally wrong and you are willing to get the psychological help to fix it within yourself so it does not happen again. It means having a court order to not own or possess animals during the time one is receiving help. Recidivism rate is 100% without treatment/help. No one is looking to hang this person however they do need to be held accountable for their lack of responsibility.