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Woman will not face charges for housing 20 cats

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Updated: March 15, 2014 6:24AM

About 20 cats were removed from a house in Waukegan following a complaint, but no charges are being filed against the woman who cared for them. She works as a volunteer with the Spay and Stay program in the city.

Cmdr. Joe Florip of the Waukegan Police Department said they crated up the cats and will be trying to find “no-kill” homes for the animals working with different rescue groups.

“She got a little in over her head,” he said. “All the cats were in good health and taken care of.”

There were also reports that she had dead cats in a freezer and a mass grave in her backyard in the 300 block of Elmwood Avenue. Dogs were also reportedly placed in cages too small for them.

“There were no mass graves and we looked in the freezers and there were no cats,” he said. It was the same with the report of dogs in small cages. The investigation started when news organizations began calling the department after a Waukegan resident made allegations that there were 100 cats in the home. The resident also said the cats were sick. Other neighbors did not make any reports.

Florip said the woman’s group spays and neuters then chips domestic and feral cats. The feral cats are released back into the wild and the organization tries to find homes for the domestic cats.

“We wished she would have called us so we could have helped,” he said.

Mayor Wayne Motley has been trying to reduce the number of animals that have to be euthanized in the city by reaching out to various rescue groups before turning those animals over to shelters that euthanize them if they are not adopted. A shelter has to save at least 90 percent of its animals to be considered “no kill.”

Last fall, the animal control facility at 1698 McAree Road was fixed and cleaned, a new animal control officer, Amber Manley, has been hired, and a new policy and procedure manual has been put in place. The mayor said the facility will need the help of various animal rescue and shelter organizations if it hopes to be a no-kill shelter.

The facility has 38 holding cages, 14 for cats and small dogs and 20 for larger dogs. There are also four for isolating sick or injured animals. The new policy calls for a 20-day limit on keeping animals, up from just four days in the past.

Last fall, Susan Elliot, director of animal control, said the city was able to place 250 dogs and cats with rescue groups last year. About 20 of that number were cats. There were five dogs that Elliot worked with, including calling in trainers, to see if their aggression would change, but they were unsuccessful and the animals had to be euthanized. Another 10 sick or injured animals had to be euthanized.

Cats have been a big problem for the city. Elliot said the Spay and Stay group from Grayslake won a grant for the city and the program has done wonders.

“We took in 500 cats last year. Years before the trap-and-release program, it was in the thousands, up to 2,000,” she said. Cities and municipalities pay organizations like Orphans of the Storm to take the animals and find homes for them. But if the facility runs out of space, they have to euthanize some animals.

“Spay and Stay cut our numbers more than half and in five more years it will be even more dramatic,” she said.

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