Dozens of animals found dead and sick in Atwater

FRESNO, Calif.

Authorities made the discovery after getting several complaints about Last Hope Cat Kingdom. It is located just outside of Atwater on Bailey, near Applegat.

Authorities served a search warrant at last hope cat kingdom on Wednesday. They said along with the hundreds of sick animals they seized, several had to be euthanized on site. Several dogs are still in plain site at this sanctuary, but animal control officers removed nearly 300 pets from the property on wednesday. They also found dozens that were already dead

"Among the 74 animals we found dead, some were found in cages with other live animals, some were found in the freezer," said Mike North the Merced County Spokesperson.

North was at Last Hope Cat Kingdom during the raid. He said many of the animals were severely emaciated, some had their eyes swollen shut, and others were infected with diseases. A team of veterinarians from across the state evaluated the pets and euthanized about two hundred of them on site.

"Nobody wants to see animals in that condition, so the ones that were euthanized, they couldn't be saved," North said.

Heather Webb lives nearby and was planning to drop off this tiny kitten she found friday morning. She was shocked to hear about the search warrant.

"I've heard all these positive things about them, and to hear this is just devastating," said Webb.

A volunteer at the no-kill shelter told us the owner is out of town, and no one else at the facility could comment. Action News have spoken with Renate Schmitz in the past, when a fire killed nearly 70 cats here in 2010.

Schmitz founded Last Hope Cat Kingdom in honor of her daughter, who was murdered on the property in 2008. County officials said they have received past complaints about the non-profit, but inspections never revelaed any problems, until last week.

"Spot checks were done by merced county animal control and confirmed the poor conditions of the facility and the animals that were housed in them," said North.

The surviving animals are now being cared for at an undisclosed location to keep them from infecting other pets at the county shelter. It's not clear yet if anyone will face charges. Officials say the investigation into this case is still ongoing.

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