(WBIR - West Knox County) The Knox County Sheriff's Office said animal control officers seized 41 cats on Monday from the home of a woman who runs a local animal rescue organization.
KCSO said it plans to cite the owner of the home, Annette Traore, 46, with cruelty to animals.
Following a complaint to animal control, KCSO said officers and two veterinarians found dozens of cats living in inhumane conditions in the basement of Traore's home at 9013 Coburn Drive in West Knox County. According to KCSO's website, authorities found cats scattered throughout a number of rooms in the basement, which was closed off from the house's upper levels.
The incident report stated there was an overwhelming ammonia smell in the basement and officers saw litter boxes overflowing with cat waste, standing urine, and what appeared to be smeared diarrhea on the floor.
One cat had its head stuck behind an unused refrigerator for an unknown amount of time.
The report stated the basement was extremely dark because curtains, empty crates and extra-large pet taxis had been stacked in front of the sliding glass doors and windows. Officers found cat feces, urine, overflowing litter boxes, no ventilation, no light, and scattered food in each of the five basement rooms.
Traore reportedly told officers she didn't know how many cats were in the basement. KCSO said she runs the Almost Home Animal Rescue from her home.
Jack Grubb said he had confronted his neighbors about the number of animals in their home before.
Grubb noticed they had five dogs in the backyard, as well as cats in the windows.
"The next day I saw they got a chipboard and they put it up over that window so I couldn't see in," Grubb said.
Officers also found three cats and three dogs outside of the basement but didn't seize those animals because they were found in well-treated conditions. However, officers advised Traore that it was against Knox County ordinances to have more than five animals on her property.
She was told she had 30 days to reduce the number of animals in her home to five.
This was the third time animal control had visited Traore's house in the past year. Previously, owners voluntarily showed officers three cats housed in the garage, but refused to let them see inside the house.
KCSO said new information from a tipster gave enough info for authorities to get a search warrant.
Traore's lawyer, Jason Baril with Ogle Elrod & Baril, said it was a temporary situation. Baril said PetSmart switched cat rescue organizations, leaving Traore with nowhere to house the cats. He said she was trying to get the cats adopted when officials seized them. According to Baril, the cats are healthy and were being fed high quality food.