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Lake Humane Society Finding Homes For Hoarded Animals

Lake Humane Society seized 85 cats and three dogs in October from a woman who was hoarding animals; many of them are still available for adoption

The Lake Humane Society is trying to find homes for dozens of animals that were seized from an animal hoarder.

On Oct. 17, the Lake Humane Society -- with help from Lake County General Health District -- took in three dogs and 85 cats.

They had been taken from 66-year-old Beverly Lewis who had been living with them in Willoughby.

Lewis has since pleaded no contest and been found guilty of five counts of prohibitions concerning companion animals in Willoughby Municipal Court.

The seizure was one of the largest in Lake Humane Society's history. It was performed by six Lake Humane staff members and took four hours. Each animal had to be captured, photographed, collared for identification and put into cages in the LHS van.

"It was a complete shock to see so many animals living in such a small amount of space," said Brittney Sanfilipo -- one of the LHS staff members who helped with the seizure. "Everywhere you looked, there was a cat -- on the floor, on the counters, on top of cabinets, under tables and in cages, everywhere."

The cats lived inside the packed house. The dogs were kept outside year round and received very little human contact, according to the LHS.

Jen Sperry, the humane agent for LHS, said the condition of the home was deplorable. Just the smell of excrement and urine was overwhelming, she said.

"The conditions of the home that these cats, and woman, were living in was unhealthy for everyone, but my immediate concern had to be for the animals," Sperry said. "They were not able to open a window or walk outside for fresh air and it was obvious that they needed medical treatment."

It took another two hours to unload the animals and put them in clean cages with food, water and bedding at the Lake Humane shelter. LHS had to set up additional cages in order to make room for this large amount of sick cats.

Despite the efforts of the shelter staff -- including veterinarians and vet assistants -- some of the rescued animals were too sick to recover. Two of them had to be euthanized shortly after arriving at LHS in order to end their suffering.

After several attempts of treatments and no hopes of recovery, nine more animals had to be euthanized. (LHS only euthanizes for severe health and temperament issues.)

Four months later, some of the rescued animals are still receiving medical treatment.

Lewis claimed to be a rescue organization, calling herself the Western Reserve Humane Society.

"It is so important to make sure, when adopting, that the organization is reputable," Sperry said. "Ask to see vet records and vaccine records. Ask how long they have had the animal.

"A reputable rescue organization will have no problem releasing this information to you. When adopting puppies, make sure they have been with the 'rescue' for at least 10 to 14 days. Just because an organization has the word 'rescue' or 'Humane Society' in their name, does not mean they are reputable.”

Having to take on this many animals had a large impact on the Lake Humane Society. One effect was the LHS was unable to take in many other rescue animals while the seized cats were treated for respiratory infections and other debilitating diseases.

On a much brighter note, 22 of the seized animals have since found forever homes and dozens more are still available for adoption.

Anyone who is interested in adopting one of these rescued animals can visit the shelter or call at 440-951-6122

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