NEW YORK, March 14, 2008In one of the largest anti-cruelty raids of recent times, more than 600 cats living in squalor are being removed from the property known as the “Tiger Ranch Cat Sanctuary” in Tarentum, Pa. by a team of 120 animal welfare experts from the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) and the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®).
The cats were living in filthy conditions in multiple buildings, including a single-family home, at 160 Miller Drive, a 28-acre property about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The owner, Linn Marie, 45, was arrested and has been charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty.
“This is by far the worst case we’ve ever encountered,” said Howard Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of the PSPCA. “Our primary concern is to get these poor animals the care and treatment they so desperately need.”
About 175 cats, some running loose, others inside fenced areas and still others inside buildings, were removed Thursday night, and at least 400 more are expected to be removed today. In addition, several dogs have been seized. “We also found other animals, including chickens, a goat, and horses forced to stand in their own waste, and will remove them as well,” said George Bengal, Director of Law Enforcement for the PSPCA. Dead cats were also discovered, some in freezers inside the home, others in mass graves and still others in plain view.
To assist in the triage of the seized animals, the ASPCA is providing three fully equipped mobile veterinary clinics for use during the raid, one of which is also the nation’s first-ever “Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit,” a specially-designed vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art forensics tools as well as medical equipment tailored for animal patients. “I’m extremely proud we have been able to assist the PSPCA in this extraordinary undertaking,” said Ed Sayres, president & CEO of the ASPCA. The ASPCA team includes three veterinarians who specialize in forensics (one of whom is the country’s only “animal CSI”); humane law enforcement; and disaster response, as well as 10 additional staff to assist in the seizure.
According to Dr. Melinda Merck, a forensic veterinarian for the ASPCA, the cats, ranging in age from three to four months to seven years, suffer from a host of ailments, including upper respiratory conditions, skin wounds, abscesses, dehydration, malnutrition, dental problems, eye and bladder infections, “and a host of other medical conditions that could have been resolved with proper husbandry,” she said.
“The overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, flea and parasite infestation, as well as the stress of competing for food and coping with untreated illnesses, has resulted in severe conditions,” said Dr. Merck. She added that the majority of the cats seem friendly and well-socialized. “Many of them came running up to us when we arrived. So far, a handful of the cats have had to be euthanized, but every effort is being made to treat those that we think can be saved.”
Officials believe the cats came from a variety of sources from all over the United States. They are being transferred to the Clarion County Humane Society in Shippenville, Pa., where they will be treated by veterinarians and possibly be made available for adoption in the near future.
The Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) obtained a warrant on Thursday, March 13, from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office to search the property. Tarentum is a borough in Allegheny County, 22 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, on the Allegheny River.
Tiger Ranch is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization registered to Linn Marie, and has been in operation since 1994. Its mission, as listed on its website, is “to provide a sanctuary (safe haven) for abandoned, abused, neglected, unwanted friendly and feral cats; a viable alternative to euthanasia.” However, the Web site lists no address or contact information.