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Seized cats doing better, but some still sick

Breeder back in business?

May 05, 2010 | 08:34 AM
Elkhorn — Initially, Jill Stallings was so pleased with the Lilac Siamese cat she purchased in December she gave the breeder, Katie Grashel, a $100 tip.

However, when Stalling's cat, Bella, was sick and suffered from diarrhea when she arrived, Grashel told her the illness likely was caused from the stress of the trip from Williams Bay to San Jose, Calif.

For a while, Bella was doing better, but she became sick again. Eventually, Stalling's cat was diagnosed with Tritrichomonas Foetus, a parasite.

Law enforcement seized 47 cats from Grashel's residence on March 25, some of which are still suffering from the same parasite and other illnesses.

Law enforcement officials said the cats were living in deplorable conditions. Williams Bay Lt. Laura Washer found the smell of the home overwhelming and at times "began to choke on the odor," according to her police report.

More than a month later, even after receiving treatment, some of those cats are still suffering from Tritrichomonas Foetus, upper respiratory illnesses and diarrhea.

Lakeland Animal Shelter Executive Director Kristen Perry said all but six of the cats have been placed in foster homes while they recover from various illnesses. Perry also said six of the cats have had litters of kittens since the seizure.

"If it was not for the intervention and sign over there could be upwards of 70 cats there," Perry said. "To care for 70 cats, you just don't want to think about it."

Perry said two of the kittens have died because of health issues, but is hopeful for the rest of the animals.

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"There isn't reason to believe they are candidates for euthanasia," Perry said.

The cats were seized after law enforcement officials raided the Stam Street home of Grashel and her boyfriend, Ronald Oehm. During the search, police were looking for child pornography, not animal neglect.

Oehm has since been charged with possession of child pornography. If convicted he faces up to 25 years imprisonment and $100,000 in fines. His case is currently pending in Walworth County Circuit Court.

Last month, Williams Bay Police Chief Robert Pruessing said Grashel and Oehm rented the home. The couple no longer lives in Williams Bay.

Shortly after Stalling's cat was diagnosed with Tritrichomonas Foetus, she looked up Grashel's address on Google and found a news article about Oehm's arrest.

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She then contacted the police who told her about the animal seizure.

Stalling said she was "relieved" to hear the cats were no longer living in those conditions. She also contacted the LakeLand Animal Shelter to tell them about the parasite found in her cat.

Perry, who has been at the animal shelter for 14 years, and never has seen a cat diagnosed with Tritrichomonas Foetus.

She said Stallings' tip was valuable because this parasite isn't one the shelter typically tests for.

"There is reason to believe everyone of these cats has been exposed to this parasite and will need to be treated for it," Perry said.

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This isn't the first time the Animal Shelter received a large number of cats. However, in the past, most the seizures involved animal populations that grew because an owner failed to spay and neuter their pets.

"This situation was a little different because it was purposeful breeding," Perry said. "I would not say this is typical of a reputable breeder."

Grashel is optimistic that after the cats receive treatment for the parasite they will be ready for adoption. She said this could occur within a couple of weeks.

Back to breeding

Apparently, Grashel has relocated her breeding operation and continues to sell cats through her Web site, Amunra Cattery.

"Clearly, she doesn't have any boundaries and that's the way she makes her living," Stallings said.

The site advertises Bengals and Siamese cats — two species that typically have a higher market value than other domestic cats.

Stallings said she paid a total of $650 for the Siamese cat she purchased from Grashel.

Ironically, it appears Grashel called for stricter regulations for other cat breeders.

In September 2008, Grashel e-mailed another cat breeder that Grashel believed had mislabeled a species of cats on her Web site.

"Every time I see something like this, it makes me wonder if there shouldn't be more strict laws to regulate people producing cats," Grashel wrote in an e-mail.

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