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West Bloomfield Township — A couple is under investigation for allegedly hoarding 178 cats in an otherwise unoccupied West Bloomfield Township house.

The last of the animals were removed Friday from the dwelling in the 1700 block of Elsie Drive, according to Joannie Toole, chief of the Oakland County Animal Shelter. Sixty of the cats had such serious injuries or medical problems that they had to be euthanized, she said.

“It was a pretty bad situation,” Toole said. “Many were malnourished or suffering various injuries. Several have respiratory problems.”

The case, which is believed the largest example of animal hoarding in the county’s history, came to the attention of the county animal control officials during a welfare check last month.

The afternoon of April 24, animal control officer Rachel Whitlock went to the Elsie Drive home to check on cats reported to be abandoned inside, according to a county news release. She was looking through the home’s windows and saw at least a half-dozen cats that appeared to be ill. 

That evening, Whitlock, a supervisor and West Bloomfield police executed a search warrant at the home, where they found at least 100 cats.

More animal control staff members were called to the home to help remove cats, followed by investigators from the Michigan Humane Society. All told, 78 cats were removed that day.

On April 26, animal control officials reached the homeowner, who gave up ownership of all the cats inside the home to the shelter. 

Over the next three weeks, 100 more cats were removed from the home as space and resources at the county shelter allowed.

The case has been turned over to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for possible criminal charges, including animal cruelty, which can carry up to four years in prison.

“This is the worst animal hoarding case I have seen in my entire career,” said Bob Gatt, manager of the Oakland County Animal Shelter & Pet Adoption Center. “These cats were living in deplorable conditions. They were not provided with the adequate care necessary to maintain good health.”

The couple involved apparently was living elsewhere and possibly bringing the animals to the Elsie address for unknown reasons, authorities said.

Authorities suspect the hoarding had been going on for more than a year. Many of the animals were infested by fleas and mites, were suffering from infections and had been left without food or water.

The house was described as filthy and full of feces, the floor sagging from waste.

For more information about the cats that were rescued and when some may be available for adoption, contact OakGov.com/PetAdoption or call 248-858-1070.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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