An official from St. Clair County Animal Control said that nine cats have been found in a home near Belleville where as many as 28 are believed to have once lived.
St. Clair County Animal Control Director Jim Jacquot said volunteers have been able to find and lure nine cats out of the house at 412 Aaron Drive after animal control officers were unable to find any during an initial search inside the house, where the electricity and plumbing has been shut off for the past three months.
The woman who lived there has been removed. Jacquot said the woman's son had initially assisted county code enforcers remove and lure 18 cats from the house.
On Tuesday, the county was cleared by the state's attorney's office to enter home. Three animal control officers attempted to search through the dark, filthy home and reported the rooms were littered with clothes, feces, fleas and flies.
Jacquot said that since Tuesday, volunteers have recovered nine cats. Six have been taken to the Metro-East Humane Society, a no-kill shelter in Edwardsville. Director Kathy Turner said that aside from the fleas and being underweight, the cats are in good shape for having come from such living conditions.
"All in all, we have not seen any upper respiratory problems or anything like that, so that is good," Turner said. "They were just hungry and flea covered."
Jacquot said photos have been taken of each cat recently recovered for the county animal control's records. He said the 18 cats initially removed were also suffering from flea infestation and malnutrition. He said each were kept at the animal control center for the required seven days, but none were adopted. He believes that all have since been euthanized.
"I think anytime you have the time and are willing, you can probably bring back any animal, but the problem with most rescues, and our situation also, is the constant flow," Jacquot said. "There is only so much time you can spend in a shelter on one animal. When you are doing that, in that same period of time you could have been able to do the same for five or six animals to help treat them. It becomes a numbers thing."
Jacquot said animal control officers are still going by the house daily to check for any more cats to make sure all have been removed.
Earlier this month, St. Clair County Building and Zoning Director Anne Markezich said the county wanted to remove as many cats as possible and then plans to demolish the home.
Anyone interested in adopting the cats or donating toward their care can contact the Metro-East Humane Society at 618-656-4405.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.