Good news in cat rescue can be hard to find. The story of Julianne Westberry in SC has been particularly hard to swallow. She was trusted by so many. I worked side by side with her in the Anderson County Humane Society Spay/Neuter Clinic. She seemed to have a stream of foster homes and adopters. She was given the “Volunteer of the Year” award by ACHS in May 2014! One month later, she was arrested for ill treatment of animals.
A passerby stopped to ask if the furniture on her porch was for sale. When the odor from inside, and the fly lined, paper covered windows were noted, authorities were notified. Authorities whose facility could be seen out the window of her house, less than 100 feet away!
Inside, they found 32 live cats, 37 deceased. More bodies were found by the owners of the rental house when they went in to clean up. It is believed, at least 25 more bodies. The true number of deceased may never be known. Many were so decomposed, they only way to know they ever existed was by fur and pieces of their tiny bodies. She pulled moms and kittens. Left them in their carriers. There, they died. One, Venus, was only ID’d by her microchip. I’ve seen pictures, not released to the public. Of the 32 survivors, 4 have since died. I have one, who was in some of the worst condition, in the care of my wonderful vets.
Thanks to the dedication of Ash Truesdale, volunteer with Foster Paws Rescue, it has been found that she pulled from 16 CONFIRMED shelters. In a little over a year, over 800 cats and kittens. She was using 3 different aliases. Her name, JW, J’s Kitten Cottage, and unbeknownst to them, the 501c3 of Anderson County Humane Society. She was accepting pledges for these cats. THAT may be the only way for these cats to get justice. Internet fraud.
It was also learned, many of the cats had been taken to her boyfriend’s farm. She lived there, most of the time. Those who have seen the farm give estimates of 70-300 cats that are alive. Others who died have been disposed of (so we are told). After JW was released, the boyfriend contacted Anderson County PAWS, the local impound, to owner surrender the farm cats. Anderson Co was given the go ahead to begin trapping. Cats would be trapped, taken to Anderson Co PAWS, and summarily killed. After all, they were “just cats”, not needed for criminal investigation and PAWS is “already full” from a previous hoarding /rescue that’s awaiting court. They don’t have the space, staff, funds, etc to save the cats.
Those following the case found out about Anderson Co’s plans on Wednesday, July 2. On Monday, July 7 at 6 PM, the cats would begin dying. “No exceptions”. 30 cats, already trapped and in custody had been given a death sentence. The facility would be closed on Friday July 4. Open for a limited time on Sat July 5.
Enter the “irresponsible public”…
Wednesday PM, July 2– much hand wringing and public outcry on the PAWS FaceBook threads as word spread.
Thursday, July 3– a meeting of about a dozen people. The only way to save these cats, these cats who had been promised a safe loving home, these cats who had already once escaped the needle or gas chamber, was to acquire a building. But we were going into a holiday weekend. People were out of town, businesses were closed. Ash knew folks would help, IF these cats could find safe haven (shelter) for a brief time.
Friday, July 4– Geneva Lawrence, a member of Kitten Action Team, spread the word. She had found someone to donate a facility for 6 weeks. Volunteers would be given keys at 5PM on Sunday, July 6. The cats HAD a building! An empty building.
Again, the news was shared. A building was found. No cages, no food, no litter… The media was contacted. When the keys were handed over, a local news crew was there to document volunteers, with brooms and rags. Cleaning the building. Cages were loaned by multiple rescues. A wish list was set up. Amazon and UPS became aware of the multiple packages they would begin shipping. Transport from Anderson County to the building in Mauldin, SC was arranged for the cats.
Pregnant cat being sheltered by volunteers after being saved from the Anderson Co pound kill room. [Photo via Facebook]
Volunteers were there on Monday, July 7 setting up for the arrival. Again, multiple news media were there. Currently there are over 50 cats and kittens. Kittens born at PAWS. Most of the females are pregnant. All are receiving care. All are alive. All of this, thanks to the public. As you like to say, the REAL humane society – small “h”, small “s” – wants to save lives. And they will.
Thank you Tami for sharing this good news and thanks to everyone who saved those non-evidence just cats from being killed at the pound. Yay irresponsible public.