SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — A search warrant is giving new details into how Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service officers were alerted to 41 cats living in terrible conditions in Spokane Valley.
According to court documents, Lyndia Stevens is being investigated for second-degree animal cruelty and operation of an illegal commercial kennel. Stevens has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
SCRAPS officials served a search warrant at Stevens’ home on April 1. According to documents, 41 cats, 28 wire crates, 28 litter boxes, 28 bowls and three airline crates were seized.
SCRAPS was alerted to the cats by a man who was watching a cat at Stevens’ home on North Bessie Road on March 29. The man said Stevens was in Florida and he agreed to watch her cat.
Documents said the man reported strange activity going on at the home and he heard meowing coming from a barn behind the home. The man said he went to investigate the barn and found “15-20 cats in cages with a tarp over them,” according to court documents. He also said the smell inside the barn was “very strong” and he had not seen anyone enter the barn in four days, documents said.
A SCRAPS officer met with the man at the home the same day. The man told the officer he was taking care of the cat inside the home at Stevens’ request and he had keys. He took the officer to the back of the property to the barn. According to documents, when they opened the barn there was a strong smell of ammonia that caused both of them to cough.
Documents said there were rows of kennels, with a large tarp hanging from the ceiling that stretched across a large portion of the back of the barn. Each kennel had at least one cat inside with litter boxes, food and water, documents said.
According to documents, each litter box was “overly full with feces and clumped urine.”
There were several kennels with food and water bowls that contained varying amounts of food and water, documents said.
“There were several kennels in which the contained cats had turned over or spilled their food and water bowls, creating an unsanitary and unsafe living environment,” documents said.
The man who was watching the cat said on March 28 he went to investigate meowing coming from the barn. Court documents said the man discovered the rows of crates and saw cats that “looked sick” and had discharge coming from their eyes. The man had his wife take pictures of the barn and he called SCRAPS the next day.
The man told officers that he was taking care of the cats inside the house on the property, which raised questions about his permission to be in the barn. According to documents, the SCRAPS officer decided they both exited the barn immediately.
According to documents, a man was renting the garage to store his ski-doo on the property. The complainant learned he was getting ready to move because Stevens’ was preparing to sell the property.
Documents said the SCRAPS officer placed a 36-hour abandonment notice on the home’s garage asking the man who rented the garage to contact SCRAPS.
On March 30, documents said Stevens contacted SCRAPS. She said she had been in Florida since March 27 and a friend had brought over two cats to help with a mouse problem in her barn. According to documents, she denied having any additional cats on her property.
After the cats were seized, SCRAPS staff said all of the cats were scared, and many are underweight, ill and in need of baths and grooming. Animal care staff stripped an office space to create a holding room for the cats in the already packed shelter, according to a Facebook post.
The Spokane area stepped up and donated dozens of bags of cat food and litter.