NEWPORT, Tenn. — The animal shelter in Newport is asking for volunteers to help care for more than 100 cats that were rescued from a hoarding situation in Cocke County.
Elisha Henry serves as director of The Friends Animal Shelter. She knew the situation was bad as soon as she arrived at a mobile home park in Cocke County on Friday.
"We had a report of hoarding cats and went to an elderly woman's home. Before you even got out of the vehicle you could smell ammonia. I said, 'Oh boy. Here we go.' When you went inside it was sickening. There was so much mold and filth in the air. It was extremely sad," said Henry, director of The Friends Animal Shelter in Newport.
Henry went to the home with two deputies and the Cocke County Animal Control Officer (ACO). They immediately rescued 13 cats that required immediate medical attention. Monday the group returned to seize another 99 animals.
"I never thought in a million years there were that many cats in there. Overall, we took 109 cats and three small dogs. They are very malnourished, full of worms, and covered in fleas. Our veterinary assistants have been vaccinating the cats. We have had to give fluids and we've had to give B12 [vitamin] shots," said Henry. "None of the animals have died. So far, these cats are pretty darn lucky."
The newly-arrived cats are quarantined in a room stacked with cages while they receive medical treatment. Volunteers spent the day pressure-washing the cages and litter boxes of the animals with a veterinary-grade cleaner.
"We certainly need volunteers to help us clean this volume of cats," said Henry. "Contact us on our Facebook page. That is probably the best way to get through because our phone is ringing off the hook."
The shelter will eventually put the rescued cats up for adoption. Right now, Henry wants people to adopt the cats that were already at the shelter.
"Because those cats, we know they're healthy. They're vaccinated. They're ready to go. That opens up room to put these [rescued] cats in our main facility," said Henry.
Henry said they will be returning to the home of the woman who hoarded the animals weekly to make sure she does not resume collecting cats.
The Cocke County Animal Control Officer told 10News there are currently no criminal charges against the woman, but the case is still under investigation.
As for how the woman acquired so many animals, Henry said many were adopted via Facebook when the woman saw posts for free cats. But Henry said some people would discard animals at the woman's home.
Henry does not excuse the woman's behavior, but expressed empathy for the hoarder. Henry also places blame on those who continued piling unwanted animals on a troubled woman who needed help.
"The biggest crime of all was the people who turned a blind eye and let her live like that. I talked to her a long time. She is not a monster. You can hate me for saying this, but she has a heart of gold and she just could not say no. I just want people to know she was taken advantage of," said Henry.