Hundreds of cats reported to be unhealthy at an animal sanctuary in Mojave

Posted at 1:22 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-11 02:53:56-04

UPDATE, 2:00 p.m. -- Kern County Animal Control Director Nick Cullen said 50-60 cats have been rescued, are being treated by area veterinarians, and may be up for adoption in the future.

Cullen said Animal Control has been working with the Save A Life Cat Foundation since 2015, but that "it reached a point recently where we felt like we act to act rapidly," though he believes the most unhealthy cats have already been rescued.

"At this point in time, we aren't concerned about the health or welfare of the existing animals on the property," Cullen said.

No further inspections are scheduled for the facility and the case is now in the hands of the Kern Co. District Attorney's Office, Cullen said.


Hundreds of cats at the Save a Life Cat Foundation in Mojave are reported to be "in mostly deteriorating physical condition" by animal officials, according to a search warrant obtained by 23ABC News on Wednesday.

Kern County Animal Control officials were alerted on June 13 about the cats by a caretaker at the facility; she was concerned about their declining health, which had been happening for about a month, the court records said.

Animal Control officials said cats appeared to have "an infectious pus coming from their nose and mouths, and they could be heard 'rattling'" when breathing, according to the search warrant.

Animal officials took several cats for testing; four were euthanized due to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), according to the court document. The other cats were taken to Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield.

On July 6, Animal Control Officer Daniel Burgess conducted another inspection at the facility, where he found 275 cats "in mostly deteriorating physical condition", according to the search warrant.

Burgess also reported seeing a deceased cat at the facility; according to the search warrant, Ruben Lopez, who runs the facility, "stated there was nothing wrong with it" even though Burgess noted that "the cat was covered in feces and infectious mucus", the court document said.

"It is my opinion that these animals have been abused," Burgess said in the search warrant.

23ABC News contacted Lopez, who said "Animal Control is harassing us" and called the search warrant "ridiculous".

Lopez's attorney, Jill Ryther of the Los Angeles-based Ryther Law Group, told 23ABC News Burgess's claims were "completely exaggerated".

"Burgess was just seizing any cat he could see or find," Ryther said.

Ryther also noted that the facility has a medical room for treating cats, and it's possible that many animals came to the facility already sick and in need of help, rather than becoming ill or being maltreated there.

Neither Burgess nor Animal Control administration were immediately available for comment on this story.