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ASPCA Forensics Team Collects Evidence During Seizure of 500 Cats from Florida 'Sanctuary'

June 7, 2011

NEW YORK, NY--The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), at the request of the Humane Society of the United States and Alachua County Animal Services in Alachua County, Fla., is collecting and documenting forensic evidence of more than 500 cats found living in deplorable conditions at a so-called 'sanctuary.'

A search warrant was executed early June 7 by the Alachua County Sheriff's Department at the Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary near High Springs, Fla., north of Gainesville, to seize the animals due to evidence of cruelty and neglect.

The cats were housed in unsanitary wire pens dotting the eight-acre property. They are being transferred to an emergency shelter where they will be examined further by veterinarians and receive any necessary medical care. Responders say many of the cats are underweight and appear to be suffering from medical ailments such as upper respiratory infections and parasite infections.

The ASPCA deployed its forensic team, which includes Dr. Jason Byrd, education  director of the University of Florida/ASPCA Veterinary Forensic Sciences Program in Gainesville; Amanda Fitch, ASPCA forensic analyst at the University of Florida's Maples Center for Forensic Medicine; and Lerah Sutton, ASPCA forensic science fellow at the Maples Center. They are mapping cats' locations, assisting veterinarians in documenting wounds and overall conditions of the cats, and removing any deceased cats for necropsies. Dr. Julie Levy, also of the University of Florida, is on scene providing emergency veterinary treatment for some cats.

Also on the scene is the ASPCA's fully equipped "Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)" unit, a specially-designed vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art forensics tools and medical equipment tailored for animal patients. The ASPCA's Subaru Outback, a donation from Subaru of America, Inc., has also been deployed to transport vaccines and other medical support.

The seizure of the cats is the result of an investigation initiated by Alachua County Animal Services following tips that animals were being neglected and living in cruel conditions. According to its web site, the sanctuary was established in 2003 by "three individuals driven by a strong desire to help the many stray, feral, and unwanted cats in Alachua County."

The HSUS and UAN (United Animal Nations) will provide ongoing, daily care for the animals until their custody is decided in an upcoming disposition hearing. Other groups assisting include The Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida (on-scene and continued medical treatment) and PetSmart Charities (donations of food and much-needed supplies).

Media Contacts:
ASPCA: Anita K. Edson; 646-522-5056; anitae@aspca.org
Alachua County Animal Services: David Flagler; 352-264-6890; dflagler@alachuacounty.us
HSUS: Jordan Crump; 240-654-2964; jcrump@humanesociety.org