90-year-old Juniper Canyon resident contacts HSCO for help in caring for the felines

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Leslie Lynch, president of SNIP, is preparing kitten food in the background.

It’s a scene becoming all too common in Central Oregon — neglected cats, dogs, horses, and other domestic animals being removed from a property by authorities.

Sometimes it’s the result of a kind-hearted animal lover who took in more critters than they could care for. Pathological hoarding plays a role in some cases. In others, it all started with just two — a male and female — and progressed from there.

For whatever reason, an animal-neglect situation developed in the Juniper Canyon area, necessitating a rescue last week of more than 100 cats and kittens from the property of a 90-year-old woman, according to Rachael Ka’apu.

Ka’apu is an associate of local attorney Greg Lynch, who is managing this project and is president of the Humane Society of the Ochocos (HSO),

“The Humane Society of the Ochocos has been working hard to rescue, save, and manage these cats and kittens, many whom were malnourished, starving, or had life-threatening diseases and health problems,” said Ka’apu. “Some kittens were so hungry they resorted to eating small rocks and pebbles that required surgical intervention to save their lives.”

This was a substantial rescue, according to authorities.

“A case this size for cats is pretty rare,” said Sgt. James Savage, of the Crook County Sheriff’s Office. “Usually, by anywhere near that, we get notified and intervene. I'm really surprised that wasn’t the case with this one.”

Savage said that no criminal charges have been filed. In fact, he said, the woman volunteered the cats.

“She was worried about the cats, and that’s what prompted the call,” added Lynch. “But she didn’t have the capacity to deal with it. She called Bend and Redmond (shelters) and couldn’t get any help, so she called our shelter. She was very cooperative and very grateful that we were there.”

No matter the circumstances, it created a huge workload for HSO and its partners.

“There’s a coalition, if you will, of the shelter (HSO), SNIP (Spay Neuter Investment Project), and CRAFT (Cat Rescue, Adoption and Foster Team). They are all working hand-in-hand to address and resolve this problem,” he explained.

“My wife, Leslie (SNIP's president), has primarily been in charge of going up there and trapping the cats,” Lynch said, “and getting the adults spayed and neutered, and the kittens put into foster care, and spayed and neutered for adoption. The cats that are tame and socialized are getting adopted, and the ones that are feral are going to CRAFT, which is an organization that finds suitable homes for feral cats.”

According to Bonnie Baker, CRAFT’s founder, they have taken in a dozen cats from this location so far, and expect another 10 this week — if they have the space.

“Most of what we have received are cats that are not well socialized,” she said. “Some we have been able to tame down so they can be adopted into regular homes. Others are not tame and are being placed as shop or barn cats.”

Lynch said that thanks to an emergency grant of $10,700 from PetSmart, many of the expenses — veterinary, food, and other — have been covered.

The operation is still far from being resolved. Lynch estimated there are 30-40 cats remaining on the property, and said although his wife was recently sidelined with the flu, she’s talking about going back out to resume her trapping.

“We’ve taken food up there, in the interim,” an important step he said, since some of the cats had died of hunger. “It’s tedious. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

The ultimate goal is to place each cat in a permanent home.

“We’ve really just found temporary homes for them, people who could care for them, and provide medication as needed, right now,” said Ka’apu. “As soon as they are all healthy and treated, then we’re starting to look for homes for the ones that are ready.”

People can help in a number of ways, according to Lynch. They can adopt kittens that are healthy and ready to go. They can foster kittens that are too young to be spayed or neutered, or need socialization. And they can always make donations to the shelter.

“We are a private, non-profit shelter that is truly no-kill,” he said. “We’re the only true no-kill shelter east of the mountains, and have been that way for seven years now. We make it an absolute priority for every animal that comes our way.”

He said this is probably the third or fourth time HSO has done something like this, including the well-publicized Kiss dogs of 2007 — 105 dogs rescued from a property on Kissler Road in Powell Butte. Most cat rescues, though, are smaller.

“Nothing this big, in terms of cats,” he said, “but we're getting it done.”

“Done” can’t come a moment too soon for Lynch.

“Personally I’ve got about 23 or 24 of those kittens at my house, that we’re fostering,” he said. “I get up early, let’s put it that way.”

He said there has been a good response by people from what the media has put out so far.

“What I’ve found in Prineville, is Prineville’s very supportive of our shelter and of the SNIP clinic. It has been for years. So when they see something like this, typically, folks in Prineville step right up.”

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