WITH VIDEO: Cats rescued from “deplorable” conditions at a breeder | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Julie Riddle Cages of rescued cats fill a cell in the old Alpena County Jail building on Monday.

ALPENA – A fatal accident on New Year’s Eve north of Alpena led police to discover dozens of malnourished cats, surrounded by debris and excrement, in a house that also served as the headquarters of a breeder in the one of the rarest cat breeds in the world.

Police say up to 100 cats apparently lived for years among mountains of trash, hundreds of empty cat food cans and the corpses of other animals unable to survive the conditions at the Alpena Township home. .

The old Alpena County Jail building has been set up as a temporary shelter for the rescued cats, as their numbers are too large to fit in the Alpena County Animal Control Facility.

On Monday, cats watched from cages lined up on metal bunks in the old cells, some emaciated and shivering, meowing hoarsely, others silent and motionless.

Researchers found the cats in “deplorable condition to say the least,” said Alpena County Animal Control Officer Michelle Reid, who led the removal of the animals from the home.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Seen through a cell door window, Alpena County Animal Control Officer Michelle Reid tries to catch a panicked cat that ran away when several dozen cats rescued were moved to the old Alpena County Jail building over the weekend. Reid caught the cat safely.

Home resident Candice Massey died in what police suspect was a medical accident at the intersection of US 23-North and Golf Course Road around 10 p.m. Friday.

Called to the scene because responders found four cats in Massey’s vehicle, Reid recognized the cats as Havanese Browns, an extremely rare breed of cat bred by Massey.

When she looked out the garage window of Massey’s house the next morning, “there were nothing but cats everywhere,” Reid said.

Reid and Otsego County Animal Control workers removed 38 cats, three ducks and a chicken from the home over the weekend.

Reid estimated that there were still 40 or 50 cats left in the house, many of them cowering in spaces above ceiling tiles or hiding under mounds of accumulated household items and trash.

News Photo by Julie Riddle A Siamese-like variant of a Havana brown cat peers through the bars of a cage in the old Alpena County Jail building on Monday.


Known for his pleasant and affectionate temperament as much as his chocolate brown color and distinctive head shape, the Havana brown’s ancestry includes the worthy Siamese cat, a lineage written on the black masked faces of some of the cats and kittens taken of the house of Massey. .

Rescuers also found domestic short-haired cats, apparently used for breeding, Reid said.

According to cat-enthusiast websites, Massey bred Havana Browns for 35 years under the trade name Acapella Cattery and was affiliated with several national cat associations.

In cat-loving online forum posts dating back decades, Massey has enthusiastically defended the “brown beauties” she has bred, encouraging other breeders to be ethical and generous in their care for the breed.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Droppings cover the floor of a home in Alpena Township where several dozen rare cats were rescued over the weekend.

According to some online sites, Massey helped lead a movement to strengthen the breed’s delicate lineage through a genetic diversity program.

Several websites list Massey as the contact person for a Havana brown rescue group.

Reid, who knew the breeder when the assistant worked for an Alpena vet decades ago, called Massey a brilliant and “super nice” woman.

“I had no idea this was happening,” Reid said.


News Photo by Julie Riddle Alpena County Animal Control Officer Michelle Reid wipes away tears as she searches for cats amid debris at the Alpena Township home of a rare cat breeder on Monday .

Surrounded by woods at the end of a dead-end road, Massey’s home showed signs that its resident suffered from mental illness, his extreme disorder indicative of the hoarding impulses that Massey’s brother said the rancher had long had. struggled, Reid said.

On Monday, hundreds of empty cans of Special Kitty cat food, some covered in rust, filled the garage floors and hallways. In a side room, several inches of feces covered the floor, while a row of cat tape hung in a doorway.

Amidst the rubbish lay small bones, cleaned.

“They literally eat each other to stay alive,” Reid said.

Other small bodies, still intact, lay on a tarp in the backyard, removed by workers during rescue efforts the day before.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Litter boxes stacked on Monday lean in a precarious heap in the living room of a home in Alpena Township where police found dozens of malnourished cats over the weekend.

The unlivable conditions were why Massey’s car was showing signs of living there, Reid said.

Reid, who expected to find cats in the dozen live traps she had left around the house overnight, baited with food, pulled only one caged cat out of the house.

“Well, that’s more than disappointing,” she said, worrying about the eerie silence of the house where she believed several dozen cats were still hiding. “I’m so scared they’ll die, damn it.”

Slight noises above a ceiling tile gave the officer hope that some cats might still come out of the house, although her flashlight beam went out as she stood on a rickety table to look through a hole in the ceiling.

“There are still so many cats here,” the animal control officer said, tears in her eyes as she wondered how to find the remaining cats before they died. “How do you explain to a cat that you are trying to save it? »


Apparently no one saw how Massey lived with his cats, “and if they did, shame on them for not reporting what they saw,” Reid said.

Michigan law dictates how breeders raise dogs, but the state has no regulatory oversight over cat breeders, according to Pollyanne McKillop, animal shelter program manager for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Michigan.

Local governments can regulate animal care and keeping, including the number and types of pets people can have, McKillop said.

The Township of Alpena website does not list a specific animal care ordinance.

Police believe other animals may be living in similar squalid conditions in the Alpena area. They need the help of residents who are willing to speak up when they notice something is wrong, Alpena County Sheriff Steven Kieliszewski said Monday outside Massey’s home.

“If you see something, say something,” Kieliszewski said, pointing to the front window of the house. “There is more.”

Had Massey’s cats been discovered before his death, police could have charged him with violating state cruelty and neglect laws.

Or, Kieliszewski said, she could have gotten the mental health help she needed.


Massey’s brother granted police jurisdiction over the rescued cats, Reid said.

Most cats have upper respiratory diseases, and many – especially Havana browns, with less robust builds than domestic shorthairs – are undernourished, some unable to eat regular cat food because that their thin body can’t handle it.

The cats will remain in the old prison while workers carry out health checks and ensure that those already mentioned by people who have done business with Massey are united with their cats.

Once the dust settles, the county will hold an adoption day for some cats, sending others to shelters and animal shelters, Reid said.

County workers will neuter and neuter all animals before they go to new homes, Reid said.

To contribute

Donations to help pay for the care of Havana brown cats rescued from a hoarding situation this weekend, and other animals rescued from dangerous living situations, can be turned over to the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office at 4900 M-32 West in Alpena, with checks made out to Alpena County Animal Control.

News Photo by Julie Riddle With cat show prizes hanging in the foreground, Kat Tomaszewski of the Alpena County Sheriff’s Department puts fresh food into a live trap left in a township home on Monday. ‘Alpena where police found dozens of rare cats in a hoarding situation over the weekend.

News Photo by Julie Riddle A cat skull lies among old cat food cans and debris in the garage of a home in Alpena Township where several dozen cats were found in a hoarding situation this weekend.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Malnourished brown Havana cats watch nervously from a cage in the old Alpena County Jail building Monday after being rescued from a hoarding situation at a home in the canton of Alpena this weekend.

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