Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Official: Pregnant cats rescued from center of animal cruelty probe

- By Caroline Tien

WOODBRIDGE — Some of the cats living on a Beacon Falls farm at the center of an animal cruelty investigat­ion were expecting kittens when they were taken in by the local animal shelter, according to an official.

Numbering approximat­ely 20, the cats were voluntaril­y surrendere­d by their owner after the state Department of Agricultur­e raided the farm on Feb. 24, seizing 99 sheep and a goose in the process, Karen Lombardi, animal control officer for Woodbridge, said.

The raid followed an inspection by agricultur­e officials that turned up evidence of animal cruelty, according to a search warrant. During the inspection, investigat­ors found bones and sheep carcasses scattered around the squalid property and intervened to help a newborn lamb they feared would not survive the night, the warrant said.

“It was a mess,” Lombardi said of the farm.

“The conditions at the farm were deplorable, actually,” she added. “There (were) unsafe living quarters for animals and people, lots of debris and stuff around that just shouldn’t have been.”

Lombardi described the main house as littered with cat feces. She said the property had been condemned and the residents had been staying in a hotel.

Fifteen of the cats were turned over to Woodbridge Animal Control on Feb. 24, officials said in a news release announcing the raid. Four more have since been found, Lombardi said. With the exception of a friendly tortoisesh­ell, Sparkle, all had to be trapped over a period of about a week and a half, she said.

Lombardi said the group is a mix of male and female cats, ranging in age from 9 weeks to around 2 years old. She speculated additional kittens born on the farm may have been picked off by predators, noting foxes and coyotes were present.

Most of the cats required treatment for injuries, infections or other health problems, Lombardi said. Scabs and scars were visible on several at the shelter Friday afternoon.

“The cats are all thin,” Lombardi said. “They haven’t seen a vet, I don’t think, ever. Ear mites on all of them or most of them. Some had untended wounds from fighting with each other. And nobody was spayed or neutered, so most of the girls are pregnant.”

One of the female cats had two kittens on March 1, and another recently had three, according to Lombardi. Several others are expecting, including the tortoisesh­ell. While shelters sometimes perform abortions on pregnant cats, those rescued from the farm were too far along for surgery, Lombardi said.

With the influx of Beacon Falls cats, the Bradley Road shelter’s cat population skyrockete­d, according to Lombardi.

“It used to take an hour to clean the cat room,” Lombardi said. “It’s now taking three and a half hours.”

Employees are constantly running back and forth between the shelter and the veterinary clinic, and cat food costs have significan­tly increased, she said.

“It’s definitely taxing the staff,” Lombardi said.

So far, five of the 19 original cats have found homes, Lombardi said, including an affable orange tabby who was awaiting pickup Friday afternoon.

Nearly all of the remaining cats are adoptable, though a few may have to be released in the shelter’s feral cat colony, Lombardi said.

Lombardi said she has encountere­d similar situations before in her time as an animal control officer. Several years ago, she said, 13 or 14 cats seized “due to unfit living conditions” wound up at the shelter.

“Typically, something like this doesn’t happen unless the conditions are really, really bad,” she said.

David Chesnutis, 65, was charged Wednesday with 65 counts of animal cruelty, according to judicial records. He is free on $10,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned March 27 in state Superior Court in Derby. He told investigat­ors he was living in a barn on the property at the time of the initial inspection, according to a search warrant.

The remaining Beacon Falls cats are available for adoption at Woodbridge Animal Control headquarte­rs, 135 Bradley Road. The rescued sheep and goose remain in the custody of the state at the Department of Agricultur­e’s Second Change Large Animal Rehabilita­tion Facility in Niantic.

“It’s really unfortunat­e,” Lombardi said.

If you suspect animal cruelty, you can make a report directly to the local animal control department or contact the state Department of Agricultur­e at 860-713-2506 or AGR.AnimalCont­

 ?? Caroline Tien / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? A Woodbridge animal control officer said a number of pregnant female cats were among those removed from a Beacon Falls farm over animal welfare concerns in late February.
Caroline Tien / Hearst Connecticu­t Media A Woodbridge animal control officer said a number of pregnant female cats were among those removed from a Beacon Falls farm over animal welfare concerns in late February.
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