NIXONTON — The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department is investigating what appears to be an illegal cat rescue operation uncovered Wednesday in the southern part of the county.
No arrests were made, but more than 70 cats were rescued from a building in the 1900 block of Nixonton Road rented by a group calling itself Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue, officials said.
Kim Parrish, board president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Northeastern North Carolina, said the cats were living in squalid conditions inside the building but none appeared to be injured. The SPCA has taken temporary custody of the animals, she said.
Parrish said the SPCA was tipped off Wednesday afternoon about the alleged cat rescue operation. She said the SPCA relayed the information to Pasquotank Animal Control, who investigated.
When officials visited the site they discovered — besides a foul odor — cats scattered from room to room.
“They’ve got some in small rooms, some in larger rooms,” Parrish said. “There’s a few of them that are free roaming, but the majority of the offices are filled with cats.”
Pasquotank County Sheriff Randy Cartwright said in a statement that the site was operated by a couple living in Chowan County. The statement did not identify the couple.
Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue has a website that includes a listed phone number. No one answered the number Thursday afternoon, but someone posted on the site that because of “circumstances beyond our control,” the facility on Nixonton Road has closed. Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue is “truly heartbroken over this,” but believes the closing is in the best interest of the cats, the website states.
A representative of The Daily Advance, seeking information about the whereabouts of his missing cat, spoke last week with a woman believed to have been in charge of the rescue operation. The woman said Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue was based in Tyrrell County.
The woman described Angela’s Angels Cat Rescue as a no-kill rescue shelter. She said it housed cats rescued from shelters that practice euthanization. She was not specific about which shelters the cats came from or how the cats were rescued.
Cartwright said when his department’s probe of the alleged cat rescue operation is complete, the District Attorney’s Office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted.
In the meantime, Parrish said the SPCA is working to get the cats removed from the building on Nixtonton Road and placed at other locations.
“We’re working as hard as we can to do that,” she said. “We’re still in the process of evaluation.”
The SPCA’s plan is to get the cats adopted as soon as possible. The SPCA relies on an extensive network of rescue groups to help with that process, Parrish said.
“They usually come through when this type of thing of happens,” she said.
The SPCA’s response to the alleged cat rescue site is the second time in recent weeks it’s been mobilized following the discovery of a large number of either abused or neglected animals. Earlier this month, the SPCA responded after area law enforcement authorities seized 80 pit-bull dogs believed to have been used in a large-scale dog-fighting operation. SPCA volunteers are currently tending to the dogs at an emergency shelter set up in a former jail facility.
Parrish said one lesson from the discovery of the cat rescue site is that you can’t just close cats up and leave them alone. Cats are high-maintenance pets, requiring food and water as well as a change of litter.
“You can’t just put cats in a building and expect them to take care of themselves,” she said.
Parrish said anyone interested in adopting a cat rescued from the Nixonton site may phone the SPCA shelter in Elizabeth City at (252) 338-5222 and leave their name.
“We just need to get them out of the situation they’re in now and get them into proper homes or re-home them somewhere,” she said.