Buyer beware when adopting kittens in Sault Ste. Marie, The Animal Assistance Group, otherwise known as TAAG, warns.
In November of 2019, TAAG was called to a home in Wabos to pick up kittens. Upon arrival they were greeted by the homeowner, Dana Horochowski.
According to a written statement by TAAG volunteer Selena Sampson, there was a noticeable odour from the second the homeowner opened the door. Upon further inspection, she noticed kittens (approx. eight weeks old) in the duct work, as well as a plethora of cats and kittens scattered throughout the house. Originally told there were around 30 kittens, Sampson said she counted closer to 300 animals at the residence.
When Horochowski took the women downstairs to the basement, the odour grew stronger and, when it was mentioned, Horochwski allegedly said, “f***, I don’t even know how many are dead in the walls,” and also mentioned that a contractor had been out previously, and when they pulled a piece of drywall off, dead carcasses fell out.
Sampson’s statement goes on to say that there were cats and kittens everywhere in the basement as well – in the rafters, ceilings, walls, duct work, floors – as well as empty cans of cat food everywhere, some with mould in them.
TAAG proceeded to chase and catch a small number of the kittens, taking them to a temporary shelter at a house in the Sault also owned by Horochowski as well as fostering them to homes in the Sault.
Karen Marshall, one of the fosters, took in six kittens and also took care of the ones located at the temporary shelter (which was later shut down, but not by animal welfare). Of the six, three died of respiratory issues.
Others were also rescued at a later date, and all were treated at vet clinics in both Sault, Michigan and Sault, Ontario for a multitude of issues. All money used to cover the cost of treatments and vet bills was out of TAAG’s pocket, which is all fundraised throughout the year.
A statement from Sault Animal Hospital in Sault, Michigan, says the following:
“This is a letter to certify findings of numerous cats presented to Sault Animal Hospital over the course of November 2019 to January 2020 from a purported hoarding situation in Canada. The kittens were presented by The Animal Assistance Group (TAAG) for initial complaints over lethargy and upper respiratory symptoms (sneezing, oculonasal discharge and difficult breathing). The majority of these kittens were treated with Clavamox or Azithromycin for presumptive upper respiratory infection, but many did not respond well. We had two kittens go into cardiac arrest and die on presentation prior to completing physical exams, and lost many more (over five) post-examination at home despite antibiotics.
One kitten, Diamond, (was) presented 11/22/2019 for severe respiratory infection and presumptive pneumonia. The kitten was placed on IV fluids, antibiotics and oxygen, but unfortunately passed away from overwhelming infection. This kitten was submitted for full necropsy and testing to Michigan State University. The cause of death was deemed severe multifocal to coalescing suppurative bronchopneumonia with pyothorax. Essentially the kitten had a severe pneumonia that caused multi-organ failure. The bacterial cause of the infection was deemed a multi-antibiotic resistant Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacteria was resistant to many of the first line defenses against upper respiratory infections in cats, which explains why many of the kittens were not responding to initial treatment.
Bordetella is highly contagious and is spread through direct or indirect contact. It is most common in hoarding situations, shelter or rescue animals, and pet stores. Stress can contribute to infection. In most cats, symptoms are mild, but in kittens or immunocompromised animals it can develop into life-threatening bronchopneumonia.
These kittens were most likely exposed via home condition to other infected animals. Their susceptibility to the infection was increased given the poor care, crowding, lack of ventilation , and uncommon nature of their infection given that Bordetella is relatively uncommon in cats. Bordetella can be spread to dogs as well, and given the sheer number of cats from the same location exhibiting symptoms, there is concern for an outbreak should the cats be rehomed or otherwise allowed to propagate without appropriate therapy.
– Sara Alves, MPH, DVM, Sault Animal Hospital, Michigan”
SaultOnline also reached out to Animal Welfare, who sent the following statement via email:
“The ministry can confirm that complaints were received related to the care of cats at the property. An inspector performed an unannounced inspection and found the animals to be in good condition and properly cared for. At the time of the inspection, there was no evidence of deceased animals on the property. The ministry considers the matter closed.
The ministry received two complaints related to the property in Sault Ste. Marie, which our inspector attended. No other complaints were received.”
– Brent Ross, Spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General
Ross explained that both calls Animal Welfare received were in regards to a location in the Sault, where a temporary shelter was set up for TAAG (also owned by Horochowski), and not to the address in Wabos where the alleged dead kittens were originally found.
Other statements sent to SaultOnline mirror Sampson’s, adding that kittens in the temporary shelter were also mistreated, and chicken bones and open cans of cat food were left laying around.
SaultOnline reached out to Horochowski, who has yet to respond.