Early on Tuesday morning, Jan. 31, our Animal Rescue Team deployed to support local law enforcement agencies with an alleged neglect case involving nearly 200 cats in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. By day’s end, responders had removed 176 cats from three residential properties owned by one individual. The animals are all safe and receiving needed attention and care from responders and veterinary personnel at a temporary sheltering facility.

Many of the cats were found crammed into rusty cages in filthy conditions, while a few were running loose or hiding behind furniture and debris. Wherever they turned, responders observed the typical indications of neglect, including brimming litter boxes, flies all around and a pungent ammonia smell resulting from massive accumulation of animal urine and waste.

The veterinary examinations of these cats were heartbreaking. Veterinarians found many of the animals beset with internal and external parasites including roundworm and fleas, and at least one cat tested positive for heartworm. Veterinarians also noted varying degrees of dental disease, and many of the cats had broken, loose or missing teeth. One gray-and-white cat our team is calling Simon was missing every tooth but one, which has to be removed.

Some cats had eye conditions as evidenced by discharge and irritation, and cataracts, and one was suffering from an eye ulcer. The veterinary team also treated ear infections and injuries. Many of the cats were dehydrated, and several required subcutaneous fluids. One cat we’ve named Athena, underwent emergency pyometra surgery (removal of the reproductive organs) to address an infection of the uterus. Another cat is being treated for an apparent ruptured and infected mammary tumor.

Representatives of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League joined our responders in providing support at the scene, and RedRover volunteers have assisted HSUS staff specialists with the care of the cats. We’re also grateful to Chewy, for donating much-needed supplies to this rescue, including more than a dozen pallets of food and litter.

The individual members of our Animal Rescue Team have seen just about everything you could imagine when it comes to animal cruelty, suffering and neglect. Every case we respond to is somewhere on a continuum ranging from bad to horrible to abominable, with many animals in extremely poor health and a few in need of urgent treatment. In every such instance, something’s gone terribly wrong in the human-animal relationship, with dreadful consequences for the animals concerned.