Pennsylvania SPCA Humane Law Enforcement Officers were busy on Wednesday removing hundreds of cats from the home of a self-proclaimed "cat lady" in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
About 240 cats were discovered in two connected "unsanitary" row homes on the 1600 block of Filmore Street. This came after officers found dozens of other felines during an earlier visit to the homes.
A sign on the gate of the home reads "I'm the Crazy Cat Lady. And this is the crazy cat house."
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According to records, the woman who lives at the home has been running a licensed animal shelter known as Animals in Crisis since 2002. SPCA officials say they began to investigate her a few weeks ago after receiving a tip from a concerned citizen. Officials say the woman initially cooperated with them and turned over as many as 30 cats during an earlier visit. However, they then asked her to surrender more cats after conditions worsened but she allegedly refused.
"She declined to continue cooperating with us," said Sara Eremus of the SPCA. "It was a situation where we needed to just go in there and take them."
SPCA officials arrived at the home around 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Investigators say conditions inside the home were so deplorable and unsanitary that the officers had to wear respirators while removing the animals.
Workers from the SPCA spent the day at the house removing the cats. The felines that were removed were transported to PSPCA headquarters on Erie Avenue for vet exams, treatment and shelter.
"PSPCA's ultimate goal here is to find the cats good homes once it obtains legal custody of them," officials stated in a press release.
In total, animal officers estimate the woman, who was not immediately identified, kept more than 300 cats in her home.
According to the SPCA, the woman was operating a cat rescue but became overwhelmed.
The Animals in Crisis website describes itself as a nonprofit organization working to rescue animals and “doing the work the PSPCA should be doing.”
“The number of cats being thrown out far exceeds the number of homes we can find, so we are forced to keep many of them and make them as happy and healthy as possible,” reads a statement on the website. “Due to this large number of cats, we need to expand our facility. We have two full-size basements that are completely cleaned out and ready for renovation.”
NBC10’s Deanna Durante called a number listed on the website and spoke to a woman who refused to identify herself. The woman claimed the animals were not being seized from the home on Filmore Street. Instead, she said the owner of the cats had gotten older and was too sick to take care of the animals and therefore called the SPCA herself.
SPCA officials told NBC10 that the woman we spoke to was “entitled to her side of the story.”
Alicia Manfredi told NBC10 that she used to work at the shelter and was not surprised by the discovery on Wednesday.
"I watched the cats being abused," Manfredi said.
Manfredi claims that she filed a complaint against the owner back in 2011 before quitting. She also sent NBC10 pictures of what it looked like inside.
"Everything was neglected," Manfredi said. "Feces, urine, everywhere. It was just really awful, even for us to be working in."
While the SPCA confirmed a complaint was filed back in 2011, they claim they searched the shelter at the time and did not find any signs of neglect.
On Thursday the PSPCA announced that the woman will face charges, although what those charges will be depends on the outcome of the investigation.
The cats will be made available for adoption soon, says the rescue.