by Valerie Verkamp
A 39-year-old business owner has been charged with animal neglect for failing to provide the necessary care for cats in her possession.
According to court records, at least 50 cats were contained inside a Riverside cat rescue business operated by Susan Gabel of Shawnee Mission, Kan. A complaint from a concerned citizen, who claimed to witness animal hoarding on the premises, prompted an investigation by law enforcement.
On June 24, 2016, Riverside officers found about 50 caged cats and multiple others wandering around Street Cats Rescue located at 2707 W. Platte Road. Inside, officers were “overwhelmed by the strong odor of feces.” Gabel allegedly told authorities she would remove about half of the cats.
In the meantime, James Fuller, a building official for the City of Riverside, notified Gabel that she was operating without a business occupancy permit and ordered her to remove all the animals from the business by 8 a.m. on June 27.
When Fuller re-inspected the business, he noticed about five to seven cats still roaming around the premise. He alleges there was an unpleasant odor of cat feces and urine permeating inside the building. Gabel was cited for two code violations, including sheltering animals in a commercial zoned area without a proper permit and allowing animal waste to build up causing a harmful odor.
Fuller received a written complaint from a nearby business on July 20. The business owner alleged he was receiving complaints from customers regarding a strong odor of dirty cat litter coming from Street Cats Rescue.
The Riverside Fire Marshal also cited Gabel with six fire code violations. She was given until July 22 to correct the violations.
Following the deadline, Fuller conducted a building inspection and discovered Gabel had failed to correct the fire code violations.
When officials visited the property on Aug. 4, they were introduced to three women assisting at the cat rescue. Officials were told Gabel had been taken into police custody. The women, who were there to help care for the animals, unlocked the business and discovered the animals had been allegedly neglected.
Dr. Jean Schmidt with the Department of Agriculture removed the cats and transferred them to Wayside Waifs for medical treatment. Eight of the thirty-six cats had to be euthanized due to poor health. Twenty-six others suffered from minor symptoms, such as tapeworm, parasites and upper respiratory infections.
The Platte County Prosecutor's Office charged Susan Gabel with a class C misdemeanor of animal neglect. A court appearance has been set for May 9.