Slideshow: Idaho Humane Society Granted Custody of 77 Cats Rescued from Hoarder 

In mid-July, the Idaho Humane Society spent two full days rescuing 59 cats from what it described as a "cramped and disease-filled" Super 8 motel room and trailer off Vista Avenue. Since then, the number of felines has climbed to 77 as of Wednesday morning: Though nine cats were euthanized or died naturally of medical conditions (mites and feline panleukopenia resulting from the neglect), others began having litters of kittens, rapidly filling the Humane Society's cattery.

The cats were originally in the care of Heather Hawking, who described herself as a breeder, according to IHS PR and Digital Media Manager Kristine Schellhaas. She said that while most animal hoarders choose to turn the custody rights of seized animals over to the Humane Society without a fight, Hawking resisted, forcing IHS into court. On Sept. 11, a judge granted IHS full custody of the 77 cats already in its care, citing a bond forfeiture on the part of the defendant.

click to enlarge Schellhaas estimated 20 cats were found in the motel bathroom alone. - COURTESY IDAHO HUMANE SOCIETY
  • Courtesy Idaho Humane Society
  • Schellhaas estimated 20 cats were found in the motel bathroom alone.
"They were already medically taken care of and we had vaccinated them, taken care of any medical needs that they had," said Schellhaas, describing IHS's process for taking in hoarded animals.

The cost of that medical treatment, food, housing and labor will be big factors in Hawking's pending court case. Thus far, IHS has spent nearly $30,000 caring for the cats, which Schellhaas said Hawking, who has charges pending per cat of permitting animals to go without care under Idaho Statute 25-3511, may is obligated to repay.

If charged, Hawking could face fines, jail time or both.

Meanwhile, IHS is readying the cats for adoption. Most of the felines are still at IHS, though 17 are in the care of Simply Cats, and four were transferred to Fuzzy Pawz Rescue. Many of those are mothers with kittens, and will remain in foster care until the kittens are old enough to be spayed or neutered, and put up for adoption.

While animal hoarding cases are relatively rare in the Boise area, Schellhaas said they're not unheard-of.

"We generally see them a couple times a year," said Schellhaas. "They generally aren't on this scale though. That's why you don't necessarily see them in the news."

Hawking's cats were discovered by the Boise Police Department, which tipped off IHS's Animal Care and Control Division. In a press release announcing the custody decision, IHS reminded the public that anyone suspecting animal cruelty or neglect can alert IHS by calling its toll-free hotline, 1-866-430-9432.
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