Officials looking for cats missing from feces-filled house
A host of cats and kittens living in unhealthy conditions that escaped capture Wednesday and were still being sought today by authorities in Valrico. When they are caught, they will be evaluated by Animal Control officials, and if they are diseased - and most appear to be - they will be euthanized. Officials don't want to infect the rest of the animals at the shelter, said Hillsborough County Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan this morning. No charges were immediately filed against the elderly woman who lived with the cars. She was taken to a local hospital as Animal Control investigators seized the cats. She has since been released, Ryan said.Animal Services investigators said they received complaints this week about the cats living at 516 Crowned Eagle Court. When investigators arrived at the home with a warrant, they found 74-year-old Alice Santis with more cats than she could care for. The woman was taken to a hospital for undisclosed reasons, and investigators began the task of collecting more than 40 cats of all colors and sizes. They found eight dead cats and 22 living cats living in what they described as squalor. The home reeked of feces, urine and mold, investigators said. Fourteen felines were euthanized due to various illnesses and investigators set traps for the rest. "The ones we took were going to be very expensive to medicate," Ryan said this morning, "if they were savable at all." More than 20 cats are roaming the property. Animal Control workers were working to trap them and take them in for evaluation. A handful were captured Wednesday night and were on their way to the shelter this morning for evaluation, Ryan said. She said capturing all the cats was going to "take awhile." Cats are difficult to catch, especially if they are living a feral existence, which many of these cats were. "Cats just go flying out a window," Ryan said. "Some were coming in and going out at will." It appeared all the cats were diseased, and could face euthanasia when they are captured, she said. Taking them into the shelter would threaten the health of the other animals there. "It's tragic," she said. "We're not happy about the conditions of the cats we've found. But we do have many, many healthy adoptable cats and many came from dramatic stories as well."
Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.