Woman wants her hundreds of cats back

At a temporary shelter set up by the Pa. SPCA, some of the 239 cats seized from a Frankford house get care - and classical music.
At a temporary shelter set up by the Pa. SPCA, some of the 239 cats seized from a Frankford house get care - and classical music.
Posted: March 29, 2014

FRANKFORD In the end, it took 12 hours to get all of Alaine Jacobson's cats out of her house. It was a process that the 64-year-old Frankford woman called "a nightmare."

Pennsylvania SPCA officials called it one of the largest rescues in the organization's history, with 239 cats carried from the two rowhouses where Jacobson had run a cat sanctuary for 12 years.

On Thursday, while veterinarians were trying to take stock of the cats seized from the house, their owner said she was preparing for a fight.

Jacobson has lived on the 1600 block of Fillmore Street for a dozen years and chose to move to the area, she said, because she knew it had a substantial population of unwanted animals.

She said she had been cooperating with the PSPCA and voluntarily giving up cats, until officers showed up Wednesday with a warrant.

"Somebody jumped the gun and decided, 'Let's make an example of this crazy woman,' " she said.

PSPCA officials told a different story. They said they were working to persuade Jacobson to give up her cats - and that after voluntarily signing over about 40 in the last couple of weeks, she refused to give up any more.

On Tuesday, the officials said, PSPCA officers visited the house and found unsuitably high levels of ammonia, overflowing litter boxes, and feces. That's when they got a warrant to remove the cats.

Jacobson's charity, Animals in Crisis Inc., employed several people and worked to spay and neuter local strays, she said.

PSPCA officials said that when they visited Jacobson's operation in 2011, the home was clean and the cats were cared for well.

Then, the charity abruptly lost its funding, Jacobson said, and problems arose.

"I was turning cats over to them [PSPCA] because I didn't have any more funding and I didn't have help here," she said. "I care so much about them that I couldn't keep them here."

She said she was considering legal action against the PSPCA. She said that she was worried about her older cats, including one that is 23, and that she wanted them back.

"These guys were treated like they were made out of gold," she said.

For now, though, the cats taken from Jacobson's house are being housed in row upon row of crates in a temporary shelter behind the PSPCA's headquarters on Erie Avenue. On Thursday, workers there tuned the radio to a classical-music station - it calms the cats, they say - as they moved among the rows, changing litter boxes and distributing food.

The vast majority of Jacobson's cats, PSPCA head Jerry Buckley said, are "friendly," and several of the 40 cats she voluntarily turned over are already up for adoption, housed in cages in the main facility.

PSPCA veterinarians are still working long hours to assess the rest of the population, which are all in protective custody and cannot be put up for adoption.

It will cost about $150,000 over the next few months to house the cats, PSPCA spokesperson Sarah Eremus said. No charges have been filed in the case, she added.

In the meantime, Jacobson said, she's planning to continue with her mission: to spay and neuter as many cats as she can.

"I'm not stopping. I'd be out of my mind to stop," she said. "That's 20 years worth of my hard work and sweat and tears."


awhelan@phillynews.com

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan

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