PUEBLO — After a month-long investigation, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region's Animal Law Enforcement division has seized several dozen cats from a Pueblo shelter that could now face charges of animal neglect.
The HSPPR has impounded between 48 cats from the Steel City Alley Cats Coalition so far and believe up to 50 cats could still be inside the facility. In a Facebook post, HSPPR said 31 have been taken back to Colorado Springs, while the other 17 in need of immediate medical attention are kept in Pueblo, according to animal law enforcement Capt. Lindsey Vigna.
"We started receiving concerns that there were some sick cats on property, and there were concerns that that proper care wasn't be followed through on," Vigna said. "There are several cats on the property, and some of them do appear to need veterinary care."
In total, Animal Law Enforcement took in 135 cats from Steel City Alley Cats Coalition. 12 of them are still in critical care at the HSPPR's Pueblo location and 123 of them are being housed at their Colorado Springs location.
Investigators said at least 4 cats have died at the facility since Sept. 4. The shelter failed three consecutive reports from the Department of Agriculture’s Pet Animal Care Facility Act (PACFA) due to unsafe conditions, including not quarantining diseased cats and not providing proper medical attention to cats in need.
According to investigators, panleukopenia, calicivirus, ringworm and other skin diseases, upper and lower respiratory infections, and more were present in the facility without proper isolation.
According to PACFA self-reporting, Steel City had 63 combined cat and kitten deaths during all of 2018.
A team of nine Animal Law Enforcement officers and one staff veterinarian began assessing cats based on level of care needed Monday afternoon.
The coalition, which was formed in 2013 according to its website, identifies as a no-kill shelter. Acknowledging the volunteers likely had the best intentions to start, Vigna said that mantra could be responsible for the neglect.
"Sometimes, when people are trying to save every animal, actually it's a cruel act. That animal is suffering more than they need to, so I just think responsible pet ownership is so much larger," Vigna said.
It's the second time this year law enforcement has intervened on a no-kill shelter in Pueblo. PAWS For Life, which won the contract to operate the city-county shelter in Pueblo, lost its license after 'deplorable' conditions were found inside the shelter.
It's too early to tell whether criminal charges will be brought to hold those responsible accountable for the suspected neglect, Vigna said.
Colorado's criminal code defines animal neglect as the "failure to provide food, water, protection from the elements, or other care generally considered to be normal, usual, and accepted for an animal's health and well-being consistent with the species, breed, and type of animal."
Over the next few days, the veterinary team will be closely monitoring the cats, giving all of them physical exams, starting diarrhea protocols and testing for panleuk, and starting upper respiratory protocols.