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Hoarding case leaves dozens of cats in shelter

A momma cat that was rescued from a house in the village of Superior cuddles with her tow newborn kittens at the Douglas County Humane Society in Superior on Tuesday afternoon. Jed Carlson / 1 / 2
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For the Humane Society of Douglas County, 2017 is the year of the cat.

It kicked off with the removal of 58 cats from a town of Superior home, a process that began Jan. 2 and took several weeks. The response soon encompassed the community.

The humane society launched an online fundraiser to offset medical costs for the cats. Businesses and community members contributed about $6,000. Families stepped up to adopt the felines, many of which were less social barn cats.

The last two cats were placed in a home June 12, according to shelter manager Sheila Keup.

A week later, a new cat hoarding case in the village of Superior was reported to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

"This is a lot for any shelter to do back-to-back like this," Keup said. "We've never had two hoarding cases for cats as large as these. To have them piled on each other is crazy."

As of Tuesday, the shelter had taken in 35 adult cats from the village residence. Two of the female cats gave birth days after coming to the shelter, adding 11 kittens to the mix. And more felines continue to prowl the home.

The cats come in small batches, but there's no end in sight.

Every time shelter staff members pick cats up, the owner tells them there are most likely "10 more."

"We took nine out; there were still 10 left," Keup said. "We took six out. There were 10 more. There's always 10 more."

On the heels of the town of Superior case, responders thought they were prepared for the living conditions in the village home. They were wrong.

"It's the worst I've ever seen," said Douglas County Detective Sgt. Richard Schnell.

There was no electricity or running water in the house, according to sheriff's office reports; photos taken by Keup revealed floors covered with cat feces. Items were piled up, hindering movement in the home. The smell alone caused responders to gag.

The Douglas County Health Department has put up a placard indicating the residence unfit for human habitation. The owner is not allowed to live in the property, Schnell said, but she can clean.

No charges have been filed against the village of Superior woman, who Keup said is 46. The woman is cooperating with the county to gather up the dozens of felines that filled her home.

The humane society is now tasked with caring for the new influx of cats — getting them spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated to prevent fleas, tested for feline leukemia and FIV — and finding them homes.

"I have a feeling when all is said and done we'll need a lot of barn homes," Keup said.

Medical costs for the cats are expected to run about $200 apiece, unless they have health problems like Barron. The eight-month old kitten reached through the bars of his cage Tuesday, rolling onto his back for attention.

"He's very sweet, very young, but he's very sick," Keup said.

Barron's lungs are in bad shape, shelter staff said, probably from the poor ventilation in the home. They likened him to a smoker who quits smoking and has a difficult time adapting to fresh air.

The humane society plans to launch an online crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to care for the newest batch of cats. Keup hopes to raise $7,000 or more, as the group is larger and exhibits more serious health problems. The shelter is also in need of feline supplies — Purina cat and kitten chow as well as cat litter.

Monetary donations are being taken online through the Humane Society of Douglas County, Wisconsin Facebook page or; supplies and money can also be brought or sent to the shelter at 138 Moccasin Mike Road in Superior.

Schnell praised the county's multi-department response to the village hoarding case. In addition to the sheriff's office and humane society, a Douglas County social worker and member of the health department were on hand to enter the home.

"We had to have all the agencies working together to get the lady the help she needed," Schnell said.

He encouraged residents to call the sheriff's department at 911 if they have concerns about the conditions in which a family member or friend is living, or the animals in their care.

"There are agencies out there to help," Schnell said.