Fifty-five animals found in apartment

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Fifty-five additional animals -- 54 cats and a Chihuahua -- have been rescued from a small apartment occupied by the same woman accused a week ago of hoarding about 200 animals on a farm property, the Humane Society of Missouri said Tuesday. The latest animals were taken Monday from a one-bedroom apartment in Union, about 45 miles west of St. Louis. Union police found the animals in crates stacked floor to ceiling, the smell in the apartment overwhelming. Some crates contained up to three cats, authorities said. Many of the animals are suffering from eye and respiratory problems. Their prognosis is not yet known. On Aug. 3, about 200 animals living in "horrific" conditions were taken from a 22-acre property in nearby St. Clair owned by the same woman. Those animals included 116 dogs, 83 cats, two horses, a mule, a guinea pig, a duck and a goose.

An investigation continues. No charges have been filed.

In both rescues, most of the animals were taken to the Humane Society headquarters in St. Louis. The horses and mule were being treated at the Humane Society's ranch in Franklin County.

One animal from the initial rescue -- a dog -- has died. The others continue to receive medical treatment. Veterinarian Mark Wright said many were suffering from conditions such as worms, parasites, fleas, ticks and ear infections. A few of the dogs even had tumors hidden by matted fur, he said.

The investigations began with an anonymous tip. In addition to the rescued animals at the St. Clair property, corpses of several dead animals were also discovered.

Dogs and cats on the farm were in cages so small that many could not stand up straight or turn around in them, Humane Society officials said. The animals were in four of five buildings on the property with floors covered with waste, old food and garbage.

Investigators said they were also hampered by rats and snakes on the property, as well as weeds so tall it made it hard to find some of the animals.

The farm that was the site of the initial investigation has been raided at least twice before, Hill said. Hundreds of animals, many in very poor health, were discovered there in 1984 and again in 1986. The owner was charged with animal abuse in the 1986 raid, but the charges were later dismissed.

"In both cases, our efforts to offer help to her were rebuffed," Hill said.

Many experts believe that people who hoard animals suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Hill said.

"The earlier we're able to intervene, the more success we have guiding that person in the right direction," Hill said. "In a case that has gone this far, there isn't much we can do."

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