Code Red: More than 300 cats seized as Hillsborough County case explodes

UPDATE: I amended the title. Total count is now at 319 cats seized as of Sunday night!

This is a Code Red and needs crossposting to every potential adopter and rescuer who can save shelter cats! More than 300 cats are expected to be seized as a case in Hillsborough County, Florida explodes. The count is now at 319 cats and 100 exotic birds being seized from a property on Bruton Road in Plant City.

screenshot credit ABC Action News
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It’s likely more than 80 additional cats will be removed during this investigation.

Six of the cats were in such bad shape after an anonymous call came into Hillsborough County Pet Resources in Tampa from a local veterinarian treating several cats from Fur ‘n Feather Farm. The clinic was very concerned many other cats were in poor condition, due to what they’d seen.

Lori Letzring, president of Community Services and Outreach Manager of Hillsborough County told Fox13 News

“The property itself has a lot of filth, a lot of smell; there were a lot of cats everywhere, some in very sick conditions… The conditions were such that our enforcement team are having to wear personal protection equipment to even work on the property and to help take these cats to safety.”

The video posted below tells how serious this situation is (Facebook video may be slow to load)

Since the owner refused to sign over the cats, they will have to be held at the shelter until the legal red tape is processed and the cats can leave. Update: In a later deal, arrived at quickly, between the owner and Hillsborough County the cats were handed over and five cats retained as pets by the owner.

Any sick cat or owner surrender or cats with behavioral issues may be killed faster than usual to make space for the new arrivals. The public and rescue groups are strongly urged to step up to adopt, foster or rescue any cats already at the shelter who aren’t part of this case.

Hillsborough County veterinarian Mallory Offner stated cats coming in who had to be euthanized were emaciated, anemic and covered in parasites and had a poor prognosis. The rest of the cats have upper respiratory infections, diarrhea, infectious diseases. Many can be treated and are expected to recover.

“We see cruelty cases pretty frequently but this scale is very unusual,”Offner added.

I covered a similar dog case in South Carolina several years ago where the animals remained in shelter care for months and months until the case was settled. This case will turn into a deadly disaster, being all of this is taking place during the height of “kitten season.”

Particularly disturbing is this is the largest case Hillsborough County Animal Services has seen in a long time. Please take the time to watch the complete video, as a lot of information is available on it.

Animal cruelty charges are pending once more investigation is completed. There is one woman, possibly with helpers, in charge of Fur ‘n Feather Farm.

Please feel free to add additional information in the comment section, including what the shelter needs. Click here for the shelter website.

Below is a picture inside this rescue before it went wrong. It is a screenshot from a video slide show:

Inside Fur 'N Feather Farm
Inside Fur ‘N Feather Farm before it went wrong. Photo added by Michael.

Update: Michael (PoC Owner) has spoken with the owner of Fur ‘N Feather Farm, Jean Wilkes, on the phone. He is waiting for her statement. Things are not necessarily as stated by the press. He hopes to be able to write an update in the near future containing Jean Wilkes’ views.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

47 thoughts on “Code Red: More than 300 cats seized as Hillsborough County case explodes”

  1. I am amazed at how some people object to TNR so badly because it will not fix the problem 100%. What if we took that stance with all other crime? What if we removed driving laws because there are lawbreakers who exceed the speed limit or drive recklessly? What if we remove penalties for theft and murder because people continue to do both? I believe psychologists call this all-or-nothing thinking, and it is not a healthy place to be.

    1. Elisa Black-Taylor

      There were 5 females in my colony. Can you imagine how many cats that would have turned into if they hadn’t been TNR’d? It may not solve the problem completely but it sure is putting a dent in the cat population. I think the real problem is many people take in a stray female who shows up at their home and they don’t have have her spayed. She goes into heat, drives the family crazy until she’s let outdoors to mate with every male in the area then she gets turned into the shelter while pregnant or after the kittens are born. Again we come down to spay/neuter laws.

      1. That is a cool description of how we end up with too many cats. S/N is essential in the modern world.

  2. Elisa Black-Taylor

    I still can’t wrap my head on how she could have cared for so many cats. With over 300 seized, how many litter boxes did she have to scoop and change daily? Even at a minimum of one for every 3 cats that’s still 100. Say she’s superwoman and can change or scoop one every 5 minutes. That’s still over three hours just taking care of litter boxes. Then there’s feeding. Are any of them on special diets? How many bowls did she have to fill with dry food and how many with wet food? Then there’s medication for the sick cats. There’s also the issue of knowing if any of the 300+ were sick. Plus she runs her own business, which probably takes up a good bit of her day.

    I can hardly wait for Jean to answer some of these questions. Does she have a few dozen helpers? Does she have ANY helpers?

    1. Good point. I don’t think she will discuss things with me because of the threat of potential prosecution. I hope she does. She has my telephone number and I have her email address. I don’t think she’ll mind if I say things got out of control. She did telephone so she’s not running away and hiding. That must be a good sign. I don’t think she will be prosecuted by the way. The speedy deal handing over the cats would have helped.

      I don’t think she had formal helpers. I wonder if we can classify this as a case or bad management rather than hoarding. I really don’t see this as hoarding. I don’t think we will hear any more of it. The birds were all okay which tells a tale.

  3. Christine Kingston

    These like and unlike signs are not fixable. I was scrolling and hit the unlike sign on my own post and it won’t undue it.. Wth…

    1. I agree they are pretty basic. I don’t think they are abused though. I’ll research something better. Thanks Christine.

      1. Christine Kingston

        Thank you Michael… As always for your input.I mean on everything. I know you put your heart and soul in your writings. I know you have a job to do. I love how much class you have even under scrutiny from people. Keep up the good fight for the voiceless animals…

        1. That’s very sweet of you Christine – thanks. It can be hard sometimes to keep up the fight as I am getting old 🙂 I feel my age although I am pretty fit.

  4. A vet practice called in the tip. Is that not a client privacy client violation. This is happening alot I am afraid it may stop people from taking cats in need to the vet. I hope that does not happen.

    1. I think it is a violation technically but a vet has to balance two competing interests under these circumstances (1) client confidentiality and (2) to disclose a potential crime under animal welfare legislation. The latter wins in this case.

      1. Yes I totally agree but what scares me is by that getting out “it was a anonymous tip from a vet” it may scare people in this situation from seeking veterinary help.

    2. The more I think about it the more I believe that your comment is actually very important. I have changed my mind on this. This veterinarian may have overstepped the mark. What if, for example, the cats that she saw were cats that had just been rescued and were therefore ill. It would be unfair on the cat rescuer to be blamed for the illnesses that these cats were suffering from. She had just rescued them, perhaps.

    3. Victoria Edwards

      It is NOT a violation. In fact licensed vets in Florida are advised and (and required by AAHA) to report neglected or abused animals.

      1. Yes, I see that. But if these cats had just been rescued by the owner of Fur ‘N Feather Farm it would be unfair to report her to the authorities.

    4. A hoarder should Never ever have care of multiple animals so who care who calls in the tip. Seriously sick people Hoard animals thinking they are helping when they live in filth and chaos themselves. Honestly I wish hoarding mentally ill people would wake up because I would rather see a hundred cats on the street fending for self ( which they can do) then in a shithole infected mess with mentally ill person. She was no rescue…she was a hoarder and her intent was NOT to help because she harmed and caused the illness of so many. Vet confidentiality? I’m laughing at that comment. Only a hoarder would worry about that. Bottom line if you cause the illness, neglect, or abusive entrapment of an animal You belong In Jail. I’m tired of the hoarding cases. Enough is enough leave the animals alone and get help for your sickness.

      1. Thanks for commenting but…..I don’t think it is right to brand all people who have lots of cats hoarders even if the conditions are poor. And we only have one side of the story. We have not heard her defense to the allegations. There are always two sides to these sorts of events. It is possible that she took recently rescued cats to the vet. The cats could have been ill at the time of rescue and not because of her treatment of them.

  5. This will continue to happen in counties and states all across the U.S. as long as there is no mandatory spay neuter for cats. People must realize there is only ONE reason and it is lack of mandatory spay neuter. When shelters are flooded with cats and kittens, mandatory hold times must be adhered to. Stray holds, abandonment cases, all have time limits. Surrenders do not. So if these people who think little Fluffy will find a home because Fluffy is a desirable kitty, think again. Fluffy will be one of the first to die. Until state governments put a mandatory sterilization in place we will see this over and over again. So you either decide to put down your kitty that YOU don’t want, or be a coward and let someone else do it for you. The only reason this is repeated over and over again is lack of laws, lack of accountability, and pure raw indifference.

    1. Mandatory spay & neuter laws won’t do anything to curtail cat populations. Because now the majority of cats are coming from breeding feral cats where people save the kittens from their backyard breeder colonies and the adults have already become trap shy. You’d have to spay & neuter every last one of 130 MILLION stray cats in the USA and do this all in under ONE breeding cycle of cats (in less than 4 months), before you will stop the problem. There is a solution that does work, but you won’t have that, you won’t even listen to it.

      1. You make some presumptions which I think are incorrect. Firstly, you say that there are 130 million stray cats in the USA. The truth is we don’t know how many stray and feral cats there are in the USA. Some people quote 20 million or less while others quote 80 million, the same number as domestic cats. I have never seen your figure published until now. TNR programs are proving successful in controlling feral cat population numbers. The process is gaining in popularity. It is currently the only humane way of dealing with feral cat numbers. We have an obligation to deal with feral cats humanely. I am listening to you but I don’t think your argument is sound.

        1. Victoria Edwards

          I agree regarding those figures. I volunteer for a spay neuter program as a retired vet tech and my daughter works for a spay/neuter clinic. If you altered every animal in the US it will still not stop animal abuse or neglect. You will always have people that get pets and get tired of them, too lazy to train them and get overwhelmed with them and then monsters that simply abuse animals. This woman is a whole different breed. At least one vet (I know him personally) has advised her in the past the animals were malnourished, flea infested, poorly cared for yet she chooses to continue to take more and more. Maybe it’s for the donations or maybe she just really likes having 100+ cats, but wanting them and taking an animal you can’t care for is neglect. What she did was horrible and inhumane. Many of those cats will die or be put down. Many already at the shelter not under a waiting period to locate owners as they were turned in under owner surrenders, will be put down to make room for her sick, abused animals as she refuses to release custody making the shelter house animals that should be allowed to humanly die due to their physical conditions. Were it up to me, this woman would receive the same treatment. She’d be housed in a cage in my backyard just big enough to move and left to live covered in her own feces, laying in her own urine, left hungry daily and infested by fleas, mosquitos etc. As the owner of numerous animals over my life span including 4 now, just hearing how they were living (or rather slowly dying a horrible death) makes me physically sick.

      2. TNR, Trap, Nueter, it is a problem caused by irresponsible humans. We don’t kill irresponsible people for overbreeding and they have options. Animals can’t make birth control decisions.

          1. I figured it was him Micheal, I feel bad that his life seems to be about hunting for something he hates so he can debate it? How is that a healthy hobby for him.

            1. He’s a mad as a broomstick 🙂

              I occasionally argue with him for fun but it is waste of time. He has one comment on this page but I deleted 2 others.

      3. The human population is pretty out of control as well. Being that I am sure you are simply concerned for the welfare of all life and would never say anything self-serving or hypocritical, why don’t you lead by example and put a bullet through your head? I can’t speak for everyone, but I will certainly take your words with a little more weight if you were to first make the world a better place by removing yourself from it. Show us you truly do care, benevolent soul Nana!

  6. Christine Kingston

    Omg, This is heartbreaking and disturbing… These cats are suffering… Praying they recover and can find furever homes…

  7. This is why people like us who realy love cats ,im a non profit rescuse i do it out of my own pocket i have 42 in my care and cant understand how this lady can call herself a rescue. I have ocd and if i live clean they live clean i eat they eat and many toys to help to intetact.they depend on us to love them and take care of them.

    1. I Agree this is what makes me the Crazy Cat Lady to others who don’t understand what and why i do what I do! Since I was 18 I have had 44 Cats and 4 Dogs all Rescued by me! I spend all my time and Money and give TLC to them and Shelter and Provide Care! Every time I move I have to Give some up Unfortunately I put Five Back in the Colony only to Regret! I Clean Constantly, Change litter twice a day, wash litter boxes with soap and bleach every few days, do there dishes, my dishes, every two days change my sheets and blankets, laundry, sweep the floors, sender mop the Floors! And i Have an Evil Landlord and Neighbors that hate the cats and because they scratched the doorways! All mine are Indoor but due to a Dog I rescued two years ago he brought in the Fleas which I’m still combating and have now spread to the Kitty’s! I Work tirelessly bathing the ones I can, clipping there nails, cleaning there ears, all by Myself! I spend all my Money, I don’t get Government Assistance for what I do and consider them my Kids! I don’t Have a Go Fund Me account I take care of them Gladly and want to Spend my Money on My Pet Rescue! I have over 2000 Photos I have Taken Proudly But these stories make it hard for me when I already have People Judging Me and Why I do this! I’m not Crazy I know Exactly What I’m doing! And once Again I’m facing Adversity and Have to Move because Evil Landlord wants me out and Evil Neighbors want my apt! Trying to find an Affordable Apt is Impossible and Most don’t want Pets or you can Have Two and pay an Outrageous Fee! The few Friends and Family and coworkers that Know what I do think I’m wasting my time! I don’t I wish someday someone would shake my Hand and say I’m Great and Thank me for all I’ve done! I have been Rescueing Since 2005 and have spent over 50000 of my money! And the Thought of having to give them up is killing me! I have Rescued most as Kittens from a Ferel Colony! I have one who will be 19 and most are now 13 with the youngest 2-5 I love them all!

      1. Thanks Debra for your interesting comment. I’ll shake your hand and say well done for all you have done for cat welfare. If you have some photos please either upload them in another comment or email me at: mj********@gm***.com and I will turn your comment into an article.

      2. Victoria Edwards

        Not sure it will help but speak to your local vet. Many times they get flea medication samples at no costs and might help you by donating. Some drug companies even give employees free meds but not all use that product. If it’s overwhelming at the moment see if maybe one or 2 might donate some capstar tablets – at my vet they are $5 each but again maybe they could donate. They aren’t monthly the are a one time thing and kills every flea on the cat in 24 hours. If you can find a laundry soap with borax sprinkling carpets with pets out of the room and let sit for a few hours will kill a large number as well. If you need help with food, check Wal-Mart. Any bag that has torn is non-salable. They donate those to my daughters clinic but there is a rescue locally that found that a store manager can donate up to $25 a month to people without corporate approval so he gives her 4 or 5 bags a month. Any little bit helps while you care for that many and asking doesn’t hurt. The worse that can happen is they say no. If they do, ask another vet.

  8. Elisa Black-Taylor

    Note: Article shows May 7 date because it’s already that date for the website hosting. Sorry for any confusion.

    1. Christine Kingston

      Thank you for your tireless work on these articles… I have the utmost respect for what you do for getting the truth to be known. You also put up with a lot of bull from people all the time for it…

      1. Elisa Black-Taylor

        I’ve stopped covering most cruelty cases because I simply couldn’t take anymore. This is a case where hundreds of cats could be killed for months for lack of space if the owner doesn’t sign them over so they can be placed for adoption or rescue.

        1. Christine Kingston

          Selfishly denying them what they need… I know , I’ve seen the posts that people attack you and sometimes personally too.. So much hate in rescue, I stay away from all of it… Sad reality…

          1. Elisa Black-Taylor

            I unfriended 2400 people on my Facebook account. I still deal with people fighting but there’s a lot less of those please forward virus messages. I know you and Rick have it rough too.

            I have enjoyed posting mainly happy ending stories on different topics these days. It keeps me sane.

            1. Elisa Black-Taylor

              I had people on my Facebook friends I haven’t heard from in over 6 years. I probably unfriended a few by mistake but it sure has cut down on all the virus containing photos and links. Several others I know have cut their friends back to people who actually care. It doesn’t affect my writing because my articles are public posted.

            2. Christine Kingston

              You are awesome to us.. Yes, we’ve had many trolls… Amazing stuff that they post.. We have to block and ban every week…

        2. Rebecca D Furr

          Why can’t they just help the existing shelter get cleaned up and let the cats and birds stay where they are? It would make much more sense and cost less money and lives. They euthanized an emaciated cat?! WTF? My boyfriend had a cat that disappeared and was missing for 2 months. He was found living in a neighbor’s barn and was literally skin and bones when he was returned. I nursed him back to health and he is happy, healthy and pleasantly plump now. Good grief..some people make things worse with their idiotic reactions. The poor cats and birds are stuck in the middle. I’m sure people would volunteer to help get things in order so the animals could be returned to their home instead of killing them. smh

          1. I understand your point. I think it is a good one. I don’t think the owner of this rescue has a criminal nature. It just went wrong. Help is the answer.

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