Animal rescue organization Animal Rescue Corps, better known as ARC, swept into Morris Chapel on Wednesday morning to help a local “cat sanctuary” owner who had accumulated too many cats.
The help came in the form of a team of about 20 ARC volunteers, many wearing respirators, entering the home to capture, inspect and remove approximately 80 cats from the home and surrounding property, as well as a shed.
A Courier reporter was at the scene from very early after the first ARC personnel arrived until after the team began to remove the animals.
On first entry, ARC personnel tested the air quality within the home, which is a standard procedure for the group after long experience in environments with hazardous conditions, and found the ammonia concentration to be 175 PPM, or 175 parts per million.
Ammonia is a colorless, corrosive, alkaline gas that has a very pungent odor, and according to animalplanet.com, is present in cat urine. Heavy concentrations of ammonia can cause severe respiratory and other health problems, and in very high concentrations even death.
Environmental air quality regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allow an eight-hour exposure limit of 25 ppm and a short-term exposure limit of 35 ppm for up to 15 minutes for ammonia in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that the level in workroom air be limited to 50 ppm for 5 minutes of exposure.
According to ARC, the homeowner, in an attempt to help cats by taking in and feeding strays or abandoned cats in the area, has been living in the home with dangerous levels of ammonia for an unknown amount of time, but likely more than several months.
ARC Director of Operations Amy Haverstick, who supervised the scene, said it was worsening health conditions that caused the homeowner to realize she was “overwhelmed” and needed help.
“It’s important to note that this was a voluntary surrender of these animals. This woman really was trying to do a good thing, which we can appreciate, but she simply became overwhelmed and reached out for help. We’re grateful that she did, for her sake and for the animals,” Haverstick said.
Pulling up in about 10 cars and two rental vans, the ARC personnel, including two veterinarians, quickly set up folding tables and arranged dozens of animal carriers, as well as equipment for their team, such as respirators, rubber gloves and other protective equipment, and medical and first aid supplies.
They also had two photographers and a videographer on hand, to document the scene. Even though the homeowner requested ARC’s help and was making a voluntary surrender of the animals, she did not stay on the property – she reportedly told ARC she couldn’t bear to watch their removal.
After everything was set up, Haverstick had the full team gather for a briefing.
She addressed the air quality and other conditions in the home, assigned roles, and gave medical and sanitary advice and reminders, such as to stay hydrated and try not to touch exposed skin after coming in contact with anything inside the home.
With that, the team broke and got to work. As each animal was captured and carried outside, it was cataloged and inspected by a veterinarian, photographed, and put in a cat carrier for later transport.
Haverstick said the animals will be taken to ARC’s emergency shelter in Lebanon, Tennessee, to be cared for until they can be adopted.
On ARC’s Facebook page, the group has already posted several photos and a short description of the rescue, as well as requesting donations to help care for the cats.
“A number of the animals are suffering from respiratory and eye infections, parasites; as well as other medical conditions. ARC veterinarians are on scene conducting initial exams of each animal and providing any immediate treatment necessary. Additional details and updates will be provided as soon as possible,” the ARC post says.
The post shows that as of 3:30 p.m, 28 donors have given $895.