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King County Animal Control: A True Story

August 13, 2009

This is the true story of a family that lives in King County.

As a side note, the fact that I am writing another true story highlights my belief that we need to share and respect the real life experiences of people, no matter what the situation, and is why I have willingly shared parts of my life that I thought would be helpful for others.

But this is the story of the Winters family- and before you start trying to hunt folks down, Winters isn’t even close to their real name, for reasons that will soon become unfortunately clear.

Bob and Jane Winters are in their 50’s.  They’ve had a decent life, a few kids who are now married, Jeremy and Beth.  Jeremy’s and his wife Sandy are in Kansas, and Beth and her husband Michael are in Arkansas.

Got it so far?  Good.

Bob is terminally ill.  He needs round the clock care and oversight and won’t live much longer.  He has insurance, plus he’s a Vet, but bureaucracy is a bitch so the person taking care of him is his wife, Jane, who also works a full time job.

Jeremy visited from Kansas a few months ago and to his horror, discovered the house he grew up in, in shambles.  In a word, it was disgusting.  The house was full of crap- just ‘stuff’ everywhere, and it hadn’t been properly cleaned in years.  To make matters worse, an entire section of the house was unlivable as it had long since been taken over by stray cats from the neighborhood.  It smelled of cat crap and pee and was just about the most unsanitary environment you could imagine.

Jeremy returned to Kansas alarmed.  Within weeks, he, his wife, his sister and his brother in law all flew up here and dedicated weeks to cleaning out the house.

His wife Sandy is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

My job was to be her ear, and what she described to me was truly horrific.  “Jeremy and Michael moved the couch in the back room and their was cat shit, alllll along the back, just piles upon piles of cat shit.  I just stared at it.  And it’s like that everywhere,” she told me.  I was alarmed by the details she shared, and cautioned her to get it under control.

“This is one of those horror stories you hear about on the news,” I would tell her, “where someone who is ill is discovered living in filth and their caretaker is arrested.”  I reminded her that having the cats in the house made the situation that much worse.  “She could be charged with a crime, either for neglect of her husband or neglect of those cats,” I warned Sandy about her mother in law, “I know she’s overwhelmed right now, but this is beyond being something that’s unfortunate, this could get much worse.”

I’ve been there, so I understand.  I sympathize deeply with what Jane is dealing with.  But enough was enough.

The Cats

Once Sandy explained the extent of the cat problem, I was hell bent on getting them out.

Remember, these aren’t house cats.  They’re strays that were allowed to take over.  Sandy too was hell bent on getting the cats out.  4 of them.  Jane, unfortunately, was attached to the cats and really didn’t want to give them up.

Then, one day, a text from Sandy hit my phone:

We got into the back part of the house.  There is another litter of cats. 5

Not. Good.

Debates ensued about the cats- do they stay, do they go, where do they go.  It dragged on.  For weeks.

I told her in no uncertain terms, “you take those cats to the King County Animal Shelter and tell them what the hell is going on!”

Now- let’s stop here and drop a jewel for you anti KCAS folks.  I don’t want to hear it.  Okay.  Done.

Finally the day came.  Sandy got the cats in the car.  Jane insisted upon going with her.

Sandy called me when they got the shelter to let me know they were going in.  Minutes later she called again to tell me they were leaving the shelter- with the cats.

“What the *@#$?!” was my reply.

“First, they don’t have any room, not for a single cat,” she told me,  “second, they said because the cats were ours- which they’re not, we have to make an appointment; ‘you can’t just give up your cats, they’re your responsibility’.”

The curt King County employee told Sandy another shelter was about an hour away with traffic, but that they would need to make an appointment which they wouldn’t be able to get the same day- and that he didn’t know if they had room for cats or not.  She was quiet for a moment.  Then she said to me, “I’m not taking these cats back to the house.”

I understood how she felt.  It had taken weeks to get them out in the first place.  I wasn’t about to tell her otherwise.  Frustrated and needing to think, she got off the phone.

Let’s stop there.

I don’t want to hear about how terrible of a person Jane is for having those cats and getting in that situation.  The woman is clearly overwhelmed, we’ve established that.  I don’t want to hear about how they should have made the trek to PAWS or driven hours to the farm out in B.F.E.  How would you feel if you’ve been sleeping on a hide-a-bed for weeks, in a house of filth created mostly by the cats and you finally get the cats out of the damn house and now you’ve been told to…take them…back?

Oh hell no, comes to mind.

Here’s what really bothers me about this situation and why I tell this story.  If someone- a neighbor, perhaps- had called either animal control about the welfare of all the damn cats, everywhere, or 911 concerned about Bob (you didn’t forget about Bob, right?  He was living in that filth dying of cancer), the respective authorities would have gone in there and it would have been all over the news.  Bob would have been taken into care, Jane would have been arrested, and there’d be video all over the evening news of cats and crap being hauled out of the house.  Where would the cats have gone?

King County Animal Control.

They would have figured out where to put the cats.  That’s they’re job- hell they could have put the cats on TV and ya’ll woulda been clamoring over each other to adopt them.

Yes, the situation was unfortunate, yes, it would have been nice if it never happen at all, but it did.  The family came together responsibly to take care of it and they were turned away.

Do you think Sandy took those cats back to that house and then got on a plane and went back to Kansas after all that work they put in for 3 weeks to get it cleaned up?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. TKH permalink
    August 14, 2009 7:49 pm

    Whoa. And whoa. What does one do when they’re left with no other choice? I know she didn’t take the cats back to the house. I HOPE she didn’t take the cats back to the house. I’m sorry. The situation needed to be rectified and the only way to do that properly was not to take the cats back. I’m not from Seattle, but I’m glad to know Atlanta is not the only city with effed up animal control.

  2. Diane permalink
    August 17, 2009 3:31 pm

    Jeremy’s father is terminally ill, has been sick for some time. The house “has not been cleaned in YEARS”. So Jeremy’s visit a few months ago was the first in quite some time? Maybe if Jeremy and his sister hadn’t waited so long to take an interest in their (dying) father, this situation would not have gotten so bad. Do you really think it is appropriate to just let people dispose of a living thing as if it were so much garbage? I can understand the need to get the cats out of the home, but how about a few simple calls explaining the situation to the shelter or other agencies in advance instead of showing up with a herd of cats like they were so much rubbish. I am pretty sure if the shelter worker was convinced that cats belonged to the person dropping them off, they would have agreed to euthenize them for a fee. I’m guessing she wanted the solution to be free as well as fast. Euthenization would have been much, much better than releasing them to create another few hundred unwanted cats. At some point, someone has to step up and act responsibly, even if it means giving up an extra hour or four out of your day.

  3. SPS Parent permalink
    August 18, 2009 7:46 pm

    What a sad story for every person involved and such a statement of how stressed our “systems” are, everything from proper health care for the terminally ill, support services for caregivers, to our local animal shelters.

  4. Oh PLEASE permalink
    August 18, 2009 7:55 pm

    I write this knowing full well you may not approve my comment, but I am PISSED at commentor Diane for her insensitive and mean comment. I read the story of this family and took every detail in good faith. I love animals, but if forced to choose between cats and people, I choose people.

    The reader does NOT know when the father became ill. Why is it a CRIME to not live in the same state as your parents? Since when does that mean the kids and the kids in law didn’t give a shit about this man or his wife? The son made a trip up, saw what was going on and returned with THREE OTHER ABLE BODIED ADULTS.

    I therefore assume he cares a great deal for his father, that he does take interest. “sick for some time”, we don’t know what some time means, we don’t know if he was sick with cancer or something else.

    But for Diane and her stupid high horse to sit in judgement over these people is just disgusting, and I hope that if the family is reading these comments, they know that Diane only speaks for herself.

    I would not have taken the cats back to the house, and I HOPE that they didn’t either. I don’t really care what they did with them- short of torture or killing. Everyone seemed stressed to the max, and doing the best they could to handle a situation that was difficult for MULTIPLE reasons. I know, I’ve cared for a dying relative who had dogs and ferrets, and getting the animals out of the house was hell.

    It is so easy to speak in judgment when you don’t have a flipping clue. Shame on you Diane.

    Good on ya, Winters family!

  5. August 19, 2009 4:54 am

    Strange and troubled times we live in.

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