Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Jersey: Animal rescuers remove 37 cats, dog from Sussex County house

NEW JERSEY -- Thirty-seven cats and a dog were removed from a house over a five-day span concluding Wednesday, according to the Byram Animal Rescue Kindness Squad.

BARKS President Darlene O'Connell declined to identify the location or the residents, stating only that it happened in Sussex County. It is the latest in a series of animal hoarding rescues in New Jersey in 2016.


All of the pets are slightly underweight but otherwise appear in good health, O'Connell said.

"Some are on the shy side, because they don't have a lot of socialization," O'Connell said.

The rescue, which began on Christmas Eve, is not over. About 10 cats remain in the residence, in part because volunteers ran out of available foster homes.

O'Connell said sufficient food and water was left behind to aid in their care, but that volunteers expect to return in a week and conclude the rescue.

"We are taking a little sabbatical," O'Connell said.


Earlier this week, O'Connell received an email that "someone was not able to feed their cats," and upon investigating with her team of volunteers, came upon the hoarding situation at a single-dwelling home in the county.

O'Connell has chosen not to release the town of residence nor the name of the homeowners.

Law enforcement has not been involved, O'Connell said, since the main goal was to rescue the cats "before it got really bad."

"In this case, it was not cruelty. It was somebody who became overwhelmed and could no longer handle a situation they got themselves into," O'Connell said.

The homeowners have been cooperative, O'Connell said, and signed surrender forms for BARKS to take the animals.

Depending on the type of hoarder, sometimes prosecution is not necessary - especially if the hoarder is the one who reaches out for help and willingly surrenders the animals.

Other animal hoarding cases have resulted in charges.

In November, a Howell Township couple - Joseph Handrik and Charlene Handrik - pleaded guilty to animal guilty and was ordered to pay $25,000 in fines and penalties, stemming from the discovery five months earlier of 276 dogs in their home.

O'Connell said the cat population in the Sussex County home would likely have continued to soar without intervention. About a quarter of the removed cats are kittens and a majority are females. Their ages appeared to range from four months to 2 years old, O'Connell said.

"In another six months, this would've exploded. It's lucky we got there when we did," O'Connell said.

The dog is around 10 years old, she said.

( - Dec 29, 2016)