posted on February 16, 2012 13:05
The description of filthy conditions at the Wyoming County SPCA Animal Shelter, is heartbreaking.
"We needed to suit-up (in Tyvek chemical suits) to go in the shelter," says Gina Browning. Browning works for the Erie County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and she helped supervise the State Police raid Wednesday on the Wyoming County shelter.
"The smell was horrific, the conditions were horrific; there were animals everywhere," said Browning. "There were some animals in cages, many animals free-roaming; some lived in cabinets, some lived in the walls."
The Wyoming County SPCA houses primarily cats, and over 250 were recovered Wednesday. Six were so injured and diseased, they had to be immediately euthanized.
More cats were still being found Thursday afternoon.
"They're coming out of the walls," Browning says.
The Wednesday morning State Police raid was a response to complaints received about the shelter. An unidentified complainant told police that diseased cats were crammed into small rooms, living in their own feces and being improperly treated with illegal medicines.
"Our search warrants confirmed that," said State Police Major Christopher Cummings at a Thursday morning news conference.
The complainant also alleged that shelter officials were misusing grant funding. Major Cummings says any records that were kept have been confiscated, and are being studied. The potential drug abuse is also being evaluated.
Much of the blame appears to be placed upon former SPCA director Susan DiVila, who has been removed from leadership in Wyoming County. State Police had not charged her as of Thursday, but others readily attribute the shelter's failings to DiVila.
Candee McConnell is a former volunteer and member on the Board of Directors. She resigned February 4th.
"She (DiVila) wants control and won't listen to anybody," says McConnell. "The by-laws weren't followed." McConnell declined any further comment and said she'll let the district attorney and troopers handle investigation.
But, she makes one thing very clear: she never thought any animals were being mistreated during her time at the shelter.
"I wasn't concerned with the animal care. I'm surprised to hear about the six cats that had to be euthanized," McConnell says. "Did I walk around and look at all the cats? No, I didn't."
McConnell was almost drawn to tears as reporters continued to question her about the care at the shelter.
"I've been trapping feral cats on my own for 35 years; this has been my life," she said Thursday. "When I found the SPCA, I thought I'd died and gone to Disneyworld.
"This (Wyoming County SPCA) is not a bad place!" she said. "It's lack of money and lack of people!"
State Police investigations continue, but neither troopers nor the Wyoming County district attorney will comment on possible charges in the case. District Attorney Donald O'Geen noted that no state or federal law restricts cat ownership, and no section of New York State criminal code deals with animal hoarding.
Officials say all interviewees have been cooperative in the investigation so far.