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'Worst case I've ever seen,' animal rescuer says of Moose Lake pet hoarder

Ryan Bryant, animal control officer for Friends of Animals, prepares to enter a rural Moose Lake home where an elderly man lived before being transferred to a nursing home. The animal control officers, who responded to a report of an animal hoarder on April 13, had to wear respirators in the home, where they found four dogs and 29 cats. [Submitted photo]

The home of an elderly pet hoarder in Moose Lake was "absolutely the worst case I've ever seen," said Mike Licari, executive director of the Carlton County Friends of Animals organization.

Licari said Friends of Animals was called on April 13 by a Carlton County social services worker who had gone to the home to help transition an elderly man to a nursing home. Friends of Animals staffers were told there were seven cats and four dogs in the home, but when Licari and Animal Control Officer Ryan Bryant showed up to check it out, they discovered 29 cats and four dogs.

Licari reported that much of the house was chest-deep in garbage and cat feces, and there was no running water or working appliances.

"The air was absolutely toxic," said Licari, who said he and Bryant had to wear respirators to go through the house. "I've never seen anything like this."

He said there were "more dead cats than live ones" in the house, and one dog was shut in a basement room with no lights or windows. Five cats were found shut in one of the upstairs bedrooms with no food or water, and there was evidence they had been gnawing on cardboard boxes and cannibalizing the bodies of six dead cats also found in the room.

Additional cats and one dog were shut in portable kennels. Licari said most of the cats were emaciated, some weighing as little as 1½ to 2 pounds, with some showing signs of blindness or open sores.

All of the rescued cats were too sick to be saved. The four dogs were too weak to stand, Licari said. "They seemed happy to see us," he said. The dogs were brought back to the animal shelter, given medical exams and began receiving food and medication.

"When we gave them all baths, they just laid there and tried to drink the bath water," Licari said.

He reported all have started to make "a remarkable recovery," can be handled, and are already becoming socialized. They include a female Pomeranian mix, a male German shepherd, a male malamute mix and a mixed-breed male. All will soon be available for adoption. For more information, go to or call (218) 879-1655.

No charges are pending against the homeowner, who is now living in a nursing care facility.

"I suspect it's just one of those very sad, unfortunate situations," Friends of Animals president Beth Collins said.

"I guess the one thing that should be learned from all of this," Licari said, "is that all of us should keep an eye out for the welfare of our neighbors. It's obvious that man had been living in those circumstances for a long period of time, and it just seems as though someone should have known about it and done something."