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250 cats, 2 dogs rescued from squalid living conditions

December 16, 2010 | 10:37 am

A woman was running an animal rescue operation from a Pasadena storage unit and her Temple City home, authorities said Thursday as they reported finding two dogs and 250 cats living in squalid conditions.

Rescuers found 241 of the cats living in “astonishing” conditions in a garage-like storage unit on Altadena Drive near Colorado Boulevard, said Ricky Whitman, a spokeswoman with the Pasadena Humane Society.

Animal advocates and police say the enterprise was “one of the largest hoarding operations” they had ever seen as cats lived on top of each other inside a 600-square-foot space littered with feces. Some were in crates, others roamed free and many were locked inside a chain-link enclosure.

Authorities received a tip last week from two volunteers who helped care for the cats, Whitman said.

“They were disturbed by the conditions and stepped forward as good Samaritans,” she said.

“Neighbors said they have smelled it for a while but didn’t want to get involved,” Whitman said. “We needed masks to get in there. The place had not been cleaned in I don’t know how long.”

Neighbors said the owner looked to be in her 60s, but Whitman declined to give her name. Another nine cats and two dogs were discovered after authorities surprised the woman in her Temple City home Wednesday night and searched the residence.

The animals were removed and were being housed at the Pasadena Humane Society. A veterinarian inspected them Wednesday night and found that most were in "surprisingly good health" except for eye and skin conditions most likely caused by poor diet and stress, Whitman said.

The woman ran her rescue operation under the umbrella of the rescue group Cats in Need. Whitman described the woman as a “hoarder who needs help very desperately,” an anomaly in an otherwise respectable and humane organization, he said.

She was taken into custody Wednesday night but released soon after on her own recognizance, Whitman said. No charges have been filed, but authorities were still investigating.

“Usually with hoarders, they start out with very good intentions and hearts,” Whitman said. “But it just grows and grows and grows until they simply take on more than they can handle.”

The animals may be available for adoption in the future, Whitman said.

“We will keep them in custody until the court decides what’s going to happen,” Whitman said. “The woman may relinquish ownership to us, in which case we can adopt them out.”

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-- Shan Li

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