Seized cats being readied for adopt-a-thon on Aug. 26-28
Hundreds of cats seized from a major High
Springs hoarding case are being shuttled this week to the University of Florida veterinary college to be spayed or neutered, tested and treated in preparation for an adoption event
The surgery is being done by about 25 UF veterinary students and a handful of veterinary residents from UF and the University of California at Davis.
"There are over 600 that will need homes," said UF veterinary professor Julie Levy. "We are planning a big adopt-a-thon, so that's why we are having the push now to get them spayed and neutered and healthy."
Alachua County Animal Services, along with national rescue groups, seized 697 cats on June 7 from Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary.
Owners Steve and Pennie Lefkowitz described the sanctuary as a no-kill facility for unwanted felines. The Humane Society of the United States described it as the largest case of cat hoarding in the nation.
Initially the cats, which are being housed in a warehouse, got exams and some treatment but
had not been relinquished to Animal Services. Custody was turned over last week, allowing for the surgery — more than 300 need to be spayed or neutered — and more intensive treatment.
More than 60 of the seized cats have been euthanized. Levy said many of the survivors have ringworm, mouth infections and diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis and viral feline leukemia.
Haven Acres cats are being spayed or neutered in the style of Operation Catnip, a sterilization program at UF in which stray and feral cats undergo surgery in assembly line fashion with staff at various stations doing anesthesia, vaccinations, surgery and recovery.
Levy said local veterinarians have been volunteering to provide other treatment."We certainly would be happy to have more veterinarians that would be willing to
volunteer, especially those who can do dentistry, because those severe mouth infections are very hard to treat," she said. "Some also have tumors that need to be removed — mostly benign tumors like tumors of the ear."
The adopt-a-thon is set for Aug. 26-28 and will be based at the Alachua County Humane Society, 4205 NW 6th St., which is near the warehouse where the cats are now being housed, said Humane Society executive director Eric Van Ness.
Animal Services Director Dave Flagler said he hopes widespread publicity from the Haven Acres case will boost adoptions.An adoption fee has not been set, Flagler said, adding that those interested in adopting a cat will be screened in order to make sure the cat and adopter are a good fit.
"I'm kind of hopeful that a successful event for us would be 200 or 250," he said. "People need to make sound financial decisions. It's easy to
listen about the hardships these animals have gone through, and they tug at your heart. If a person is wanting to open up their hearts to a new animal, this is a wonderful event. But make sure your wallet can accommodate that, as well."
Prosecutors should decide by next week whether any charges will be filed against the Lefkowitzes, said Spencer Mann, of the State Attorney's Office.
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