Nearly a hundred animals seized from no-kill shelter in Florence

One of the 89 cats seized from R.UG. Activity Center Animal Shelter on FM 970 in Florence on March 22, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)
One of the 89 cats seized from R.UG. Activity Center Animal Shelter on FM 970 in Florence on March 22, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)

FLORENCE, Texas (KXAN) — Ninety animals at a Florence animal shelter have been seized as part of an animal cruelty investigation.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office says they seized 89 cats and one dog from the R.U.G. Activity Center Animal Shelter, located at 383 Farm to Market 970, at around 10:40 a.m. Wednesday.

“Just from a visual observation, there were definitely some upper respiratory issues and some skin conditions that I saw,” Misty Valenta, community programs coordinator with the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter says.

An animal cruelty complaint from the Texas Department of State Health Services triggered the investigation and seizure of the animals.

Officials say a regional veterinarian just happened to be in the area and stopped by the animal shelter last week for an unplanned visit. She had concerns with the shelter and notified the sheriff’s office. The animals were taken to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown at around 2:40 p.m.

Daniel Hoch, who owns the shelter, gave KXAN’s Lauren Kravets a tour of the facility. Hoch explained that an inspector made an unannounced visit last week and gave him a letter stating there were numerous infractions at the facility. Hoch disputes officials’ claims that there was not appropriate air conditioning or lighting for the cats under his care.

“Some of the cages aren’t as clean as they are on a normal basis because we got here and they were here to impound the animals so we didn’t have time to have our daily cleaning of the cages yet,” said Hoch.

He admits it’s messy, but claims it doesn’t affect the animals.

“I’m a junk collector,” Hoch said, describing the problem as a funding issue. “If [Williamson County] wanted to help, they would send volunteers out here to do the lawn work… they would share their vets with us to do some of the vet work have to pay for.”

The state claimed the cats had ringworms, but he believes they had flea allergies. While most of the cats stayed in the main room, another two to three dozen were housed in the community room without cages.

The report also noted the following:

  • Grounds are covered trash and litter.
  • Litter boxes are full of days of feces and urine.
  • Feces on floor, room reeks, boxes are full of urine and feces.
  • Admits they do not clean the cats daily.

A volunteer at the shelter says the animals weren’t abused or neglected. “I think it’s a total abuse of power because these animals are not nearly abused to the degree that they need to take them away,” said volunteer John Hoch.

Neighbors say their main complaint was the smell and late night construction work on parts of the building. When we told them animals were seized, they were surprised to know animals were living inside the building.

“We would get like a smell from the house specially when the winds blowing like this we can smell like really nasty foul smell,” Brandi Reuschel, a neighbor said. “I’ve never seen anybody go out there and check on them. I’m really shocked that there was animals even in there.”

The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter says their veterinarians found the cats had fleas, upper respiratory issues, skin conditions–including ringworm. Some of the cats are also pregnant.

In February, more than 400 animals were seized from a Caldwell County home due to unhealthy living conditions. Around 150 feeder mice and rats, 86 snakes, 56 guinea pigs, 28 dogs, along with a number of goats, skinks, ferrets and bearded dragons were confiscated from the home.

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