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2 kids, 100+ cats seized from Santa Ana home

March 9, 2011 12:46:18 AM PST
Authorities seized two children and more than 100 cats from a home in Santa Ana last month after neighbors reported a foul smell coming from the house.

Residents inside the home refused to comment on the matter on Wednesday.

Courtney Lynn Howe-Perez, 22, and Sharon Lynn Howe, 64, were allegedly running a nonprofit pet rescue from the home called Cat Connection Rescue Network Inc., even though proper paperwork had not been filed.

Police say that at the time of the seizure last month, the smell was so foul that animal services personnel had to use hazardous-materials suits and respirators to go inside the home.

"The conditions were no less than deplorable. The smell of ammonia was so bad that we could not even enter the house without breathing apparatus," said Sondra Berg, Santa Ana Police Animal Services supervisor.

Santa Ana Police brought a camera along as they seized more than 100 cats living in squalor. Two children were also living in the house on the 2000 block of S. Baker St.

Cat feces and urine covered the walls and furniture, and litter boxes were overflowing onto the floor.

"We've had several cases in Santa Ana. This by far is one of the worst I've ever been in," said Berg.

More than 100 cats throughout the house were found. Twenty had to be euthanized.

"Some of the other ones had skin diseases, eye infections, upper respiratory [problems], so it was pretty severe," said Berg.

Two children, ages 7 and 12, were found living in the home with their parents, grandparents and an aunt. They were removed from the home and are now living with other family members.

Courtney Howe-Perez, the kids' aunt, was recognized in 2006 for her volunteer work caring for cats at an Orange County adoption center.

"You do get attached, but you know that they're going to good homes," said Howe-Perez in a 2006 interview.

Police allege the 22-year-old ran a pet rescue at the house for two years called the Cat Connection Rescue Network Inc. Police suspect Howe-Perez was running it as a non-profit organization, collecting donations even though she didn't have the proper paperwork.

Howe-Perez and the children's 64-year-old grandmother, Sharon Lynn Howe, who police say controls the home, now face animal cruelty charges. The children's parents, Kerri and Jerry Moreno, now face child endangerment charges.

Jillianne Richards, the new president of the Cat Connection Rescue Network, said in a statement that they were saddened by the situation. She called it a case of a rescuer with a heart of gold that got in over her head.

Twenty cats had to be euthanized, 70 were adopted or sent to other rescue organizations and 20 cats are still up for adoption.

The case is now in the hands of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.