A Sacramento couple described as animal "hoarders" plan to pay the city $6,000 to reclaim seven of 77 cats seized from their Sacramento home in October.
Paul and Kathy Franco pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty after city animal shelter workers, with the help of a police SWAT team, raided their home and captured dozens of felines that they said were living in deplorable conditions.Authorities condemned the house, which was caked with animal feces, and took the cats to the city shelter as their tearful owners protested. Most of the animals had to be put to death because of behavioral and health problems, said Sacramento City Animal Shelter manager Penny Cistaro.
This week, the Francos plan to reclaim seven of their surviving cats, which is the maximum number allowed within city limits.
The shelter agreed to hold the felines for the Francos until the criminal case was resolved. But to reclaim them, the couple must reimburse the city for board and medical care, as well as cost of conducting the raid on their home.
The tab came to more than $13,000, Cistaro said, but the city agreed to lower it to $6,000 because the Francos expressed a strong interest in keeping the cats and were unable to pay the full bill.
"We've been taking good care of these cats since October. Do we really want to euthanize them because the owners can't come up with $13,000?" Cistaro asked. The shelter would be unlikely to find adoptive homes for the seven older cats, "especially during kitten season," she said.
Philip McCarthy, Paul Franco's lawyer, said the couple are hopeful that they can raise the money required this week to save their seven felines.
"They are trying, although it is a burden for them," he said. He said the Francos, who are in their 60s, have cleaned and repaired, and moved back into their house in south Sacramento. The case has been "very stressful" for them, he added.
Under a settlement with the city, the couple will be required to take classes that address the "hoarding" issue, and must allow inspectors to make periodic checks of their property to make sure that they are properly caring for the animals, said Cistaro.
If they fail to comply with terms of the agreement, they could face arrest and loss of their animals, officials said.
"They love their cats," said McCarthy. "The bottom line is that they just had too many. They had trouble keeping up."
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.