Eighty-six cats were put down Monday night, following a seizure of what officials now say was 225 cats from Kirkham Kattery Rescue, listed as a non-profit shelter, but located in a residential neighborhood.
County officials say the animals that were euthanized all tested positive for feline leukemia, and were in "grave" condition.
"Under the direction of a local veterinarian, staff worked until 12:30 a.m. conducting preliminary assessments of the cats that were thought to be in the most dire condition," according to Joy Tsubooka, Santa Rosa County public information officer.
The animals are quarantined at the shelter, according to Tsubooka. "The current priority is a thorough medical evaluation of the remaining cats." She says due to the number of animals brought in, it could take several days to a week to complete the assessments.
"At this time, it is too early to make plans for adoption or moving of the cats to other shelters, those decisions pending on the results of the more thorough health evaluation and veterinary recommendations," she says.
The animals were seized following an on-going investigation where an undercover Sheriff's deputy went into the shelter and adopted cats from Allan and Ella Kirkham, the owners and operators. According to Sheriff's officials, the animals were immediately taken to a veterinarian, who completed a physical on each of the cats. They were found to be infected with feline leukemia, upper respiratory infection, bronchitis, flea infestation, tapeworm infestation and other diseases.
Sheriff's officials say Animal Control in Santa Rosa County had received numerous complaints about the shelter, including adoption of sick animals, foul odor at the residence, cats in the home which appeared to be ill, and about 100 cats free inside the home.
A search warrant was served early Monday afternoon, and over 200 animals were found and seized. Sheriff's officials and animal control officers worked together with animal cages to haul the pets to the shelter. At one point, a horse trailer was utilized to carry the cages due to the number of cats involved.
T he removal of the cats concluded around 7:30 p.m. at which time, Allan and Ella Kirkham were arrested on warrants for health-safety of animals cause cruel death, pain and suffering - third degree felony; health-safety nuisance injurious to health - second degree misdemeanor; and health-safety sell dispose let roam diseases animals - second degree misdemeanor. Both were charged separately with one count each of the listed crimes. They were held on $3,500 bond and were released on that bond.
Feline leukemia can take up to three months to show up after exposure and cats may show no symptoms. The illness is spread through direct contact from grooming, fighting, sneezing, litter box use, food and water bowls. Kittens can catch the virus through mother's milk. Animal control officials say anyone who adopted an animal from Kirkham Kattery Rescue should have their animal checked out by a veterinarian.