A local animal rescue group is hoping to find homes for a number of the surviving cats found at a Belton house where authorities said more than three dozen cats were recently discovered dead.
Meanwhile, authorities on Tuesday found another 60 cats at a new location related to the original case, according to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.
The situation unfolded on June 18, when a passer-by was interested in buying some furniture that he saw on the porch of 406 Anderson St. in Belton, according to Police Chief Tommy Clamp. As he approached, he noticed a foul odor coming from the home and contacted police, Clamp said.
When police arrived, there was no one at home so they went inside and found 32 cats alive, but another 37 were dead in “various stages of decomposition,” he said.
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Another 20 or so dead cats were subsequently found at the home by the owners when they came by to evaluate the situation, Clamp said.
The home was being rented by Julianne Westberry, 46, Clamp said.
Westberry, of 705 Barker’s Creek Road, Honea Path, was arrested and charged with a felony count of ill treatment of animals, according to an arrest warrant.
The warrant alleges that she “did through omission or commission, torture, torment or inflict excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering on a cat in her care which resulted in the death of said cat.”
She was lodged in the Anderson County Detention Center but eventually posted bond, Clamp said.
Clamp said he didn’t know how the cats died, but that they had “been dead for a while.” Westberry had been out of town, he said, and it was unknown how long the cats had been there alone.
The surviving cats were taken to the Anderson County P.A.W.S. animal shelter, Clamp said. Officials there couldn’t be reached for comment.
Clamp said he had been contacted by people from New York to Florida and from as far away as the United Kingdom who said they had sent Westberry money to support her fostering operation. He said he had contacted the State Law Enforcement Division for help.
Any additional charges involving the cruelty case are up to the solicitor, Clamp said.
Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams confirmed that her office is working on the investigation with law enforcement, but that she is prevented by ethics laws from discussing a pending case.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Jonathan Brown of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office said that the Animal Control Unit responded to an address on Murdock Road in Belton on Tuesday where they found about 60 cats living outside related to the Westberry case. They all had food and water, Brown said, and there were no signs of malnourishment.
Officers spoke with someone there, who agreed to turn the cats over to authorities, Brown said. The cats will be removed and taken to Anderson County P.A.W.S., he said.
No charges were filed in connection with the Murdock Road address, Brown said, and the investigation is continuing.
“Animal Control is working diligently to render assistance to these animals and will go from there,” he said.
Diana Riglet, director of rescue for Foster Paws in Greenville, said the group had worked with Westberry on some projects.
“She offered to foster some cats for us. We do not know if those cats are still alive. We’re not sure if they were among the dead found in her home,” she said. “We are trying to locate them.”
Riglet said her group expected to get nine of the cats from the shelter and were hoping to find homes for them. The group also needs cat food, litter, beds, carriers and other supplies as well as funds for veterinary care.
Anyone wishing to help can go to contact Riglet through the Foster Paws Facebook site at www.facebook.com/FosterPawsRescue.