On June 7 and 8 The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seized some 700 cats from Pennie and Steven Lefkowitz, Alachua County, Florida residents who had established their own cat sanctuary. By the time the HSUS intervened, more than 70 of the animals were determined by veterinarians to be so ill they had to be euthanized, reported the National Examiner.
For a while, the media were relatively quiet about the matter. Perhaps this is because it isn't unusual for so many cats to be found in one cat sanctuary. Feline adoption centers, such as the 'Cat House on the Kings,' safely accommodate the same number of felines as were rescued in Florida.
Plus, instances of animal hoarding are increasingly common. The Examiner tells of an episode in 2007 in which Best Friends Animal Society saved nearly 800 starving and ailing cats from a sanctuary in Pahrump, Nevada. And The Animal Hoarding Project says that approximately 250,000 animals are “victims of animal hoarding every year.”
So why did interest in the case suddenly rise this week, months after the original seizure?
Maybe it's because the fate of the couple was finally decided. Initially animal rights activists had been torn over what to do about the infractions. Some thought the two should be given “mandatory mental health evaluations and therapy.” Others opted for jail time. On the night of Aug. 15, things were settled: the Lefkowitzes were arrested and are now out on a bond. They face 47 counts of animal cruelty, writes the International Business Times, “46 for cats and one for a rooster.”
In the beginning, the Lefkowitzes sought only to take unwanted cats from neighboring owners through a drop-off system, and many believe their intentions were noble. But as Ashley Mauceri, deputy manager of Animal Cruelty Investigations for The HSUS said, it became "clear that [they were] unable to properly care for this number of animals, and we want to make sure they get the care and attention they need."
From Aug. 26 to Aug. 28 the HSUS will host an adoption event for some 550 of the surviving cats in Alachua County.