Last Hope Cat Kingdom in Atwater to continue operations

The Merced County District Attorney's Office announced it will not file criminal charges against the owner of the Last Hope Cat Kingdom in Atwater.
January 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The Merced County District Attorney's Office announced it will not file criminal charges against the owner of the Last Hope Cat Kingdom in Atwater.

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This after county officials decided to allow the cat rescue to continue operating with fewer animals as long as it complies with a set of strict guidelines.

Under the new restrictions the shelter must reduce the number of animals to 40 cats and no dogs, implement a training program for volunteers and provide weekly reports to county officials.

Volunteers told us they are happy to comply following a raid last June where animal control officers say they discovered hundreds of sick and dying animals.

Every six months the facility complies with the stipulations, they'll be allowed 10 more cats up to a total of 80. The regulations will be in place for at least two years.

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PRESS RELEASE:

DA NOT FILING CRIMINAL CHARGES IN SHELTER CASE

The Merced County District Attorney's office announced today that it will not be filing criminal charges against Renate Schmitz, owner of the Last Hope Cat Kingdom, according to Steven Slocum, a supervising deputy in the District Attorney's office.

"We have reviewed the evidence and have decided to exercise our prosecutorial discretion in the case of LHCK, and will not file criminal charges against Renate Schmitz or any of the volunteers who worked at the shelter. Our ethical responsibility requires that we only file a case where we believe we have a reasonable likelihood of obtaining a conviction. Any prosecutor would be hard pressed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors that Ms. Schmitz is a criminal deserving of conviction and incarceration," Slocum said.

After a lengthy and thorough review of all the evidence, the District Attorney's office concluded that several problems contributed to deplorable conditions found at LHCK. Slocum noted that the facility became a favorite dumping ground for pet owners wanting to abandon animals ? whether sick, dying or unwanted ? and "not feel guilty about it."

Slocum noted that Schmitz tried to save them all and their facilities proved completely inadequate to handle a cat population of nearly 300. The isolation dorms for sick cats were enclosed by screen doors which permitted the ready transmission of diseases. There was no organized method of isolating and treating sick cats. Finally, LHCK relied almost exclusively on untrained volunteers who were ill equipped to evaluate and treat sick cats. The result is that hundreds of cats were living in an unsafe environment that was ripe for the spread of disease, Slocum said.

"The administrative process utilized by the Planning Department has worked to remedy the health and safety issues the public and these animals faced. Under the right conditions, LHCK could provide a valuable and important service to what would otherwise be unwanted cats in Merced County. This important work however, must take place in a clean and healthful environment. The measures taken by Planning will ensure that this is done. We intend to carefully monitor any future developments," Slocum said.


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