|Fri, Dec 20, 2013 02:06 PM
|Issue of December 18, 2013
December 21, 2011 | 10:36 AM
A Depauw couple was in Harrison Superior Court Monday after being charged with four counts of Class A misdemeanor cruelty to an animal and one count of Class D felony neglect of a dependent.
Randall T. and Samantha Sue Lee, both of the 5700 block of Milltown-Frenchtown Road, spent less than an hour in jail and were released after each posted a $200 surety bond.
Randall Lee (click for larger version)
The Lees were charged after 36 cats, three dogs and four chickens were removed from their home on Nov. 17, and the Department of Child Services told the couple that their two children had to stay elsewhere until the home's living conditions were deemed more suitable. The children returned home after a couple of days.
Four of the cats have since died.
"The scene inside the home shocks the consciousness of a seasoned public servant. It was something that had to be seen to be believed," Harrison County Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue said last month. "The smell of feces, urine, molding clothing and rotting food caused your nostrils to swell shut and made it difficult to breathe. There was feline diarrhea on the floor, and ... there was two inches of water in the basement and a mattress where it appeared one of the children slept. The entire scene was absolutely unbelievable."
Samantha Lee (click for larger version)
Samantha Lee runs an in-home, no-kill cat rescue shelter under the name Frisky Felines Foundation. One of the mission statements of the organization, which doesn't appear to have any type of nonprofit status, says, "We believe every cat has the right to live and has the right to live free of hunger, cold, abuse and loneliness."
On her Facebook page, Samantha Lee says she has worked for Barbour Lane Animal Hospital in Louisville. Barbour Lane would only say that she had worked there but it was several years ago; they declined further comment.
"This case has put a tremendous strain on Harrison County's Animal Control. We have had to ask the public to wait a little longer for many of the routine services we normally provide," LaHue said Monday. "The influx of sick animals has also forced the temporarily shutdown of our adoption operation, which usually picks up this time of year.
"It has been extremely hard on the staff and volunteers," he said. "The positive side of this case is, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, the Harrison County Prosecutor's Office, Milltown Marshal Ray Saylor, the State Board of Animal Health, Smith Animal Clinic and countless donors, we have removed animals from harm's way and provided them with the care necessary to live a normal life. We did our job with the laws we have to work with. The animals in this case are now receiving humane care and can be considered safe.
"As for Randall and Samantha Lee, they are innocent until proven guilty," he said. "Their fate is in the hands of our justice system and God. I'm OK with that because in God I have faith."
The case has generated a veterinary bill of $7,400, most of which will be absorbed by donations, LaHue said.
A report was filed last week by District 8 Field Technician Dr. Jodi Lovejoy of the Indiana State Board of Animal Health who evaluated the animals and rated them using the Purina Body Condition Scoring System. The animals were rated on a 1.0 to 9.0 scale where 1.0 is emaciated, 9.0 is extremely obese and normal body condition is 5.0. The presence or absence of periodontal disease was also noted in the report.
She said that of the 36 cats, 21 scored in the 1.0 to 2.0 range, and nine others were in the 2.5 to 3.5 range. Six of the cats scored in the 4.0 to 4.5 range.
Of the dogs, one was scored 7.0 (heavy) while the other two were in the normal range of 4.5 to 5.0. One of the dogs also tested positive for heartworms.
Two of the four chickens were in thin body condition, while the other two were in good condition.
Lovejoy noted that half of the cats had an active upper respiratory infection at the time she evaluated them, and some of the cats were infected with feline infectious peritonitis, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasma felis. Both C. felis and M. felis may cause disease or may be present in healthy cats. Death rate in cats showing clinical signs of FIP is approximately 95 percent.
Twenty-two of the cats had eye problems such as redness and discharge.
Lovejoy said the only two cats known to be vaccinated for rabies were two feral cats. The Lees did not provide rabies vaccination information for the majority of the cats and none of the dogs. (Rabies vaccination of all dogs, cats and ferrets over three months of age is required in Indiana.)
Lovejoy said several photos of living conditions of the animals as provided by LaHue showed multiple litter boxes, most of which contained substantial amounts of cat feces, and the presence of cat feces outside of the litter boxes. Some of the feces noted were not properly formed, indicating the cat(s) had diarrhea. Feces were documented around floor vents and a door, she said.
The three dogs were kept in kennels. A Dalmatian was kept on the Lees' porch in a cage that did not provide adequate room for movement of the animal, nor was it able to separate itself from its bodily waste.
A black Lab-type dog was housed next to the house in a kennel that had no flooring. The kennel was muddy and wet, and the dog had no dry area to sit or lay down, the report said.
A chocolate Lab had a doghouse in its kennel. The ground surface of the kennel area appeared to be extremely muddy and wet, and there appeared to be little to no bedding present.
Lovejoy expressed concern about the cats' living conditions in the Lees' home, as well.
The photos "show large volumes of assorted material inside the home and sharp objects being present. These two situations can lead to possible entrapment and/or physical trauma to animals (or people) living within the residence," the report reads. "Additional photos showed the presence of an excessive amount of fecal material."
In Lovejoy's conclusion about the animals, she said, "Mrs. Lee states (on her website) that she worked as a veterinary technician for six years and has an educational background in animal care. With this in mind, it is difficult to understand how she allows mingling of clinically ill cats with other cats, how she does not practice any type of biosecurity to prevent or decrease the likelihood of disease transmission from animal to animal, such as quarantining of new or ill cats, and practice good hygiene such as removing fecal material on a daily basis. ... Additionally, with her self-reported medical background, she should be keenly aware of the health implications for people being around ill animals and living in a feces contaminated environment.
"The health and well-being of the cats are in immediate jeopardy and require immediate intervention, veterinary examination and treatment. The health and well-being of the dogs are not in immediate jeopardy but are lacking required care."
"There appears to be an overall disregard for the health and well-being of the animals owned and cared for by Randall and Samantha Lee. Their lack of adequate care for the animals, the cats in particular, indicates that they are either unable or unwilling to provide normal, common care for the animals they own."
On Jan. 14 of last year, 21 animals were seized from the same house and some had to be euthanized. Her children were required to leave the home then, too, but criminal charges were not filed by then-prosecutor Dennis Byrd.