YORKTOWN, Ind. — On Tuesday, officers with Muncie Animal Control were called by the Delaware County Health Department and Delaware County Sheriff’s Department to a home on South Oakdale Drive.
“They had found conditions inside to be unfit for human or animal habitation,” said Ethan Browning, director of Muncie Animal Care and Services, as well as Muncie Animal Control. “They were estimating about 60 to 80 cats inside.”
Browning said he went to the home, along with senior animal control officers and described the conditions inside as “completely deplorable.”
“The conditions inside the home were horrendous.”
Animal control officers said they were met with an overwhelming odor and that all of the furniture in the home was infested with bed bugs.
“We were in full Tyvek suits, duct-taped, all of our seams sealed up, with gloves and booties and we had full face respirators as well,” he said. “That was advised by the Delaware County Health Department, and because the conditions were so bad inside.”
While some neighbors told CBS4 they were unaware of the situation, others said the smell coming from the home was unbearable some days.
“You had so many cats and you open those windows, and nobody could stand the smell. You couldn’t even sit outside,” said neighbor Jerry Jackson.
When Browning and other animal control officers were in the home, he said, at one point they lifted a three seat couch and “at least two dozen cats scattered out from under it.”
“A dozen more were found under and inside a recliner,” he said. “Many of the cats ran and hid in kitchen cabinets and entered holes in the walls. Five cats were found huddled behind the toilet, and several were found under the mattresses and amongst the clutter and filth.”
As of early Wednesday afternoon, the shelter had rescued 35 total living cats, including 15 kittens under the age of 12 weeks and 20 adults.
CBS4 has since learned that later in the evening, the shelter brought in an additional 13 adult cats and 5 kittens, for a total of 18 on the second day of rescue efforts.
With 53 living cats rescued so far, Browning said their work isn’t done. His team is led to believe, based on their observations, that there are at least a dozen more inside the home.
The shelter set additional live humane traps and personnel will return again Thursday to try and rescue the remainder. “We’ll go back every day until we rescue them all,” said Browning.
According to Browning, there were also two “severely decomposed” cats that were found by animal control officers. He said the already unsanitary situation elevated even more when the deceased cats were found.
“It had been quite a while that they were in there, and that the other cats were living amongst the decomposing remains,” said Browning.
“It’s just very discouraging also that people were possibly living amongst it. It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking. It really is. You don’t get used to it.” Browning shared. “You get used to going through the motions and dealing with what needs to be handled, but you never get used to seeing animals in that type of distress and that type of situation.”
Browning said the cats did not belong to the homeowner.
“From what we were told, the elderly resident of the home, the property owner, was not able to live there anymore due to the conditions. She had someone staying there with her and they were actually his cats,” said Browning.
“He had just only been coming by to feed them and wasn’t even staying there as well,” he continued. Browning said when they were looking through the home, they did not find any food. “All of the bowls were empty.”
He said it is assumed that when a feeding happened, it is likely that the older cats probably got to the food before the kittens did, noting that the kittens were very malnourished and infested with parasites.
He said a basic examination of the adult cats revealed they were in fairly good health given the conditions they were found in, however, he also noted, “They’re not spayed or neutered, but we are seeing ear mites, we are seeing intestinal parasites that are common when they share spaces with a large amount of feces.”
Browning said the situation is completely preventable. “It’s very discouraging because we work so hard to try to connect people to resources or spaying or neutering their animals at lower costs through participating veterinarians or programs.”
Based on the conditions in which the cats were found, Browning said, “in my opinion this is definitely a neglect, cruelty situation. It’s an unfortunate situation.”
“I do hope to see someone be held accountable,” he said. “Preferably the cat owner and not the property owner because they were not her cats, but that will be up to the Yorktown Police and Delaware County Sheriff’s Office.”
“I mean you can never be completely prepared for something like this, but we try to train and be as prepared as possible,” he said.
“Working with the municipalities to put in places some ordinances would help,” said Browning. “We cannot enforce any codes in Yorktown because we don’t have that jurisdiction and it’s to my understanding from that town hall manager, they don’t have any animal codes — any animal ordinances so there’s just a real lack of understanding when it comes to animal issues.”
In the first two days of June, Muncie Animal Care and Services brought in 91 animals alone, including the 53 seized from the Yorktown home.
As the shelter nears capacity and animal care and services is working to get the rescued cats under the care of veterinarians, they are estimating the costs will be around several thousand dollars.
“On the low end, we’re looking at, at least $5,000 for medical care for these cats but it’s going to realistically with labor, medical care and equipment, be upwards, closer to about $10,000.”
The shelter is accepting monetary donations for veterinary care. They are also accepting donations of non-clumping litter and KMR, food, both wet and dry, blankets and beds, and wire crates.
The shelter is also in desperate need of carriers. The shelter says the carriers they currently have are being used to help rescue the cats from the home in Yorktown. They then need to undergo an extensive decontamination process. Anyone with carriers they could part with is asked to leave them at the shelter’s front door.
They have also set up a GoFundMe to help raise money for the rescued cats. If you are interested in donating, you can visit this link, set up by the shelter.
The cats are not yet available for adoption.
State law requires that all animals taken from a cruelty case be held for 10 days after intake before they can be made available for adoption. Whether the cats will be ready in 10 days will depend on the status of their health, pending veterinary care.