Kathy Kamins and others have been working tirelessly since early December to find 16 cats that apparently were dumped on the side of a Johnston County road.
“It’s one of the most horrible things that I have ever been through with animals,” Kamins, of Angier, said in an interview Wednesday.
All but one of the cats had been checked out of the Cumberland County Animal Shelter, a shelter official said. Prosecutors say the cats were then dumped, not far from Perezlazaro’s Johnston County home, in late November by Terry Beasley and Tamara Perezlazaro at Cornwallis Road near Interstate 40 in Garner.
Only nine of them have been rescued, Kamins said.
The accused, Perezlazaro and Beasley, also from Johnston County, appeared in front of a Johnston County judge Tuesday, according to television station WRAL. Each was charged with one count of animal cruelty and one count of animal abandonment.
Most of the cats had not spent much time outside and some were declawed, didn’t have all their teeth or needed medication, Kamins said. After being dumped, some of the friendlier cats made their way to nearby homes, clawing at doors to find food and a warm place to sleep, she said.
Kamins, an animal advocate, and fellow volunteers have been working almost daily to find the remaining cats, crawling on the ground through December’s cold and wet weather to set traps with sardines.
“I have never been through this with animals,” she said. “I am completely exhausted, and I have never cried so much.”
Many of the cats were microchipped, said Jennifer Hutchinson-Tracy the shelter manager for Cumberland County Animal Control.
Hutchinson-Tracy had an understanding with Perezlazaro, that she would be allowed to adopt cats from Cumberland County if she agreed to rehome or send the cats to reputable rescues, she said.
“(Perezlazaro) was to keep us updated as to where the cats went and was not to have more than 9 of these cats in her home at any time to keep in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act,” Hutchinson-Tracy said.
The shelter relies on people like Perezlazaro during busy times of the year to take care of cats when the shelter nears full capacity, Hutchinson-Tracy said. The Cumberland County shelter can handle a maximum of between 150 and 200 kittens and at some points, nearly 75 to 100 additional kittens are in foster homes, she said.
Hutchinson-Tracy did say that she had became concerned that Perezlazaro was hoarding cats, and contacted both the Department of Agriculture and Johnston County Animal Control. However, no problems with Perezlazaro were reported, she said.
Between March and November 2016, Perezlazaro had adopted 79 cats under their agreement, Hutchinson-Tracy said.
One cat, that was not dumped off in November, was taken back to the Cumberland County shelter from Perezlazaro’s home, Hutchinson-Tracy said. Perezlazaro is no longer allowed to adopt any more cats from the Cumberland County shelter.
Hutchinson-Tracy said that finding more of the missing cats may be difficult until spring because they may be hunkered down against the cold weather or have found homes with new families.
“You never know,” said Tracy. “We’ve had animals resurface after months and years, so it’s still possible.”
Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said her office is still looking into the case and more charges could be filed, WRAL reported.
Kamins said she plans to keep looking for the missing felines, and encouraged people with information about the cats to call 919-889-0085.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi