ASPCA Investigation Leads to the Rescue of Nearly 600 Cats
On November 16, 2009, a team of animal welfare professionals—comprised of members from the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team, the City of Labelle Animal Control, the Humane Society of the United States, and the University of Florida's shelter medicine program—conducted an assessment of conditions at the 10th Life Animal Sanctuary in Clewiston, Florida, in conjunction with the Hendry County Sheriff's Office. The situation was deemed unsatisfactory, and with the owner's consent a team of more than 75 responders removed nearly 600 cats from the premises.
Owned by Maury Swee, 10th Life took in hundreds cats from across the country. Swee widely advertised the "sanctuary" as providing "life-long care for sick and unwanted cats in a stress free environment"—charging a $550 intake fee per cat. According to local and national news reports, the cats, ranging in age from kittens to seniors, were found living in severely overcrowded indoor and outdoor wire mesh pens. Food and water were scarce, and many of the animals were deathly malnourished and emaciated. The felines were also suffering from a host of ailments, including upper respiratory infections and chronic mouth ulcers. Many were also infected with FeLV. Dozens of the cats were in need of urgent medical care, and humane euthanasia was necessary for the very ill.
A team of veterinarians from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, an ASPCA partner, gave the cats complete health exams on-site. The animals were treated for parasites and various illnesses, tested for FeLV and FIV, vaccinated, and microchipped. Once in stable condition, the cats were transferred to rescue agencies across the state, where they were made available for adoption. Many of the cats required special placement with carefully managed feral colonies.
In response to the grave situation, the ASPCA awarded an $8,000 grant for medical expenses, housing and supplies to the University of Florida and a $5,000 grant to the City of LaBelle Animal Control.
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