Woman plans to petition Health Department for custody of cats kept in motel

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 10:03 p.m. CDT; updated 8:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 1, 2010

COLUMBIA — Susan Kohler's cats might be on the move.

Kohler plans to petition the Health Department by the end of the week to remove her 28 cats from the Central Missouri Humane Society facility.


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The Central Missouri Humane Society has been keeping Kohler’s cats in its facility since Animal Control removed them from Motel 6 on June 16. Kohler pleaded not guilty to the charges against her through her attorney, Steve Wilson, on Friday. She is being charged for having too many cats, for not vaccinating the animals for rabies, animal abuse resulting from failure to provide food, water and vet care to the animals and unsanitary living conditions. 

The request to move Kohler's cats was first made in court Monday. Judge Robert Aulgur could not grant her request because it wasn't under his jurisdiction, so Kohler must now petition the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department.

"My real reason for wanting to have them move was for the concern of overcrowding at the humane society," Wilson said. Kohler was the first to bring up this concern, he said.

The cats would be moved into a number of private pet boarding facilities, Wilson said. This would give Kohler more ability to check up on the cats, as well as comfort in boarding the cats in facilities where she knows people, Wilson said.

Having the cats in private boarding facilities would create a situation similar to having them in the humane society and also give the assurance that the animals wouldn't be abused, Wilson said.

The petition supposedly will not be requesting to release the cats back to Kohler. However, she wants to make sure the cats are not adopted or sold while the case is pending and logistics about where the cats will eventually end up are being figured out, Wilson said.

“Frankly, we are just going to react to what the request is,” said Gerald Worley, Columbia/Boone County environmental health manager. “We have to see what it is they’re asking before we can say what we might do.

Upon receiving the petition, Stephanie Browning, director of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, will decide if the cats can be moved and what stipulations would apply, Worley said.

Wilson plans to submit the petition to Browning by the end of the week even though Browning will be out of town until early next week.

He remains skeptical about how the petition to move the cats will be received.

"I get the feeling that the humane society and Animal Control will not agree because of their concern over jurisdiction issues," Wilson said. Kohler went to Callaway County Veterinary Clinic in the past for vet care, so Animal Control might worry she would put the cats in boarding facilities outside of Boone County where they would lose jurisdiction, Wilson said.

Keeping Kohler's cats in local pet boarding facilities would allow Animal Control to maintain jurisdiction over the cats.

About half of the cats have a mild respiratory infection and are receiving antibiotic treatment, said Alan Allert of the Central Missouri Humane Society.

“Any time cats are in a situation like that, it’s not uncommon to have respiratory problems because of the crowding and the stress and the air quality,” Allert said.

Vet care and boarding costs for the cats are paid for by Kohler on a weekly basis. As of Monday, Kohler should have paid an estimated $4,800 — about $3,300 for vet care and about $1,500 for boarding — to the humane society and Animal Control, Wilson said.

Moving the cats from the humane society would help relieve some of the costs, Wilson said.

Worley hopes custody issues are resolved before Kohler’s hearing on July 20.

"What happens on the 20th really depends on a lot of different circumstances that happen between now and then," Wilson said.

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Rose Marie Zizzo July 26, 2010 | 8:16 p.m.

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