The woman who allegedly housed 239 cats in unsanitary conditions in a Frankford property will face animal cruelty and other charges, according to the Pennsylvania SPCA.
SPCA workers wearing breathing apparatus spent 12 hours removing the animals from Lanie Jacobson’s two adjoining homes on the 1600 block of Fillmore Street on March 26 because the levels of ammonia in the yellow stucco buildings was so high it was unsanitary for the animals, said Sarah Eremus, SPCA spokeswoman. The buildings’ floors were covered with cat feces, and litter boxes were overflowing, she said.
It was one of the SPCA’s largest one-day animal rescues, she added.
According to the city’s online property records, the residentially zoned buildings are owned by Animals in Crisis Inc. (www.laniesanimalsincrisis.org), which Eremus said March 27 is an animal rescue.
Eremus said the SPCA received reports about the buildings and investigated several weeks ago.
“The neighbors were not happy [about the property]. They had been complaining about it,” Eremus said.
She said Jacobson earlier had surrendered 40 of the cats, but then stopped.
“She’s very bonded to the cats,” Eremus said. “She wanted to help animals in need. … She’s a very compassionate person. ”
Jacobson, who has a sign outside her house that announces the “crazy cat lady” lives there, didn’t take the PSPCA’s visit well, Eremus said.
“I feel terrible,” Jacobson said of her cats’ removal. “I feel like I died.”
She said PSPCA staffers had been her allies in rescuing animals. Commenting on animal cruelty charges, Jacobson said, “I can’t imagine how they could possibly make them stick.”
Eremus said Jacobson once had received funding for her registered nonprofit. She had money to pay staff, Eremus said, but she somehow lost the funding and couldn’t pay staff to take care of the animals.
Jacobson, 64, said a philanthropist she would not name had supplied her pet rescue operation with about $200,000 a year, and then stopped donating in August.
“I used to have a staff of six,” she said in a March 31 phone interview. She said she lost staff when she lost funding. She also said she asked the PSPCA for help because she couldn’t keep up with caring for the cats, who she said were all well-fed and provided for. Before losing funding, she said she paid for neutering and spaying for thousands of cats.
SPCA investigators went to Fillmore Street on March 25, Eremus said, and found hundreds of cats whose urine produced the high ammonia levels.
The cats were not concentrated in one place. “They were everywhere,” Eremus said.
SPCA staffers went back with a warrant on Wednesday, March 26, and began removing the cats in individual pet carriers, putting them in vans and taking them to the SPCA’s headquarters at 350 E. Erie Ave. There were no kittens among the cats removed, and there were no dead animals on the premises, Eremus said, adding the felines had food and water. She said Jacobson continues to reside in the home.
The buildings had no current violations with the Department of Licenses and Inspections on Friday morning, Scott Mulderig, director of L&I’s Emergency Services Division, said in a phone interview. However, he said he was going to send an inspector to the property that day.
Eremus said the SPCA had made all the surrendered cats available for adoption and hopes the remainder also will be put up for adoption once it has legal custody.
Jacobson said Monday that some of the cats taken from her home have returned on their own. She said that some “outside cats” come to her home each night to be fed. “They’re still coming,” she said.
To adopt a pet, call 215-426-6300, or visit www.pspca.org ••