It was the smell that hit them the hardest as staff members from our Animal Rescue Team entered a house in Killeen, Texas, this morning, to help local law enforcement agents remove nearly 200 cats and kittens and several dogs from a situation of alleged large-scale neglect. “My eyes started to burn up within a minute of being inside,” said one responder, so strong were the fumes from animal waste.
But that paled in comparison to the sight of the animals who lined the property wall to wall.
Cats were everywhere, including many kittens, living in stacked cages and aquariums throughout the property. There were nursing mothers, and kittens who seemed sick and very thin, many with what appeared to be eye infections. A little black kitten had an eyeball that "looked like it’s going to explode,” as one veterinarian at the site said. Several kittens were in critical condition and had to immediately be transferred to a veterinary hospital. It appeared as though these animals had not received any veterinary care, or care of any sort. Litter boxes were overflowing with feces.
Among the dogs we discovered was a chihuahua who was struggling to walk.
No matter how often we conduct these rescues, and we’ve done hundreds over the years, it’s never easy to face or to stomach the suffering that the animals involved endure. Our Animal Rescue Team is often called upon by local law enforcement agencies to rescue animals from puppy mills and dogfighting operations. But some cases are not so black and white, involving as they do a blend of animal cruelty and neglect. These cases can be a challenge for authorities to prosecute. Fortunately, Texas has pretty strong cruelty laws and we are hopeful that the state will be able to hold those responsible for this situation accountable.
Law enforcement entities and animal welfare organizations like ours also end up bearing the long-term costs of veterinary care and sheltering for the animals, something we’re trying to address with cost-of-care legislation in various states. A preliminary estimate shows that veterinary costs in this case will be significant.
But it is the animals who have paid the biggest price.
After getting an on-site veterinary examination by Dr. Melinda Merck, a veterinary forensics expert from Austin, Texas, and Dr. Cate McManus of Irving Animal Services, the animals are being taken to a temporary emergency shelter. There, they’ll be further examined by veterinarians and receive additional needed treatment and care.
These animals are in good hands now, and for that we are grateful to the members of our Animal Rescue Team, Killeen law enforcement, Emancipet, which is donating veterinarian and veterinary technician services for the veterinary exams and care at the temporary shelter, our long-time partner GreaterGood.org for donations of animal enrichment and supplies, and RedRover responders who will assist with taking care of the animals at the temporary shelter. We will continue to update you on their situation in weeks to come, and we hope to be able to help place these animals for adoption through our shelter and rescue partners. Today, we are simply thankful that their nightmare is finally over.