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43 Pets Found in Condo Euthanized : Animals: Shelter director says some had feline leukemia, the rest anemia. The owner, who pleaded guilty to cruelty charges, refutes that: ‘My cats were all plump and sassy.’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Orange County Animal Shelter officials said Monday they have euthanized 43 of the 45 dogs and cats that authorities found alive in a filthy and flea-infested Aliso Viejo condominium in June.

Officials said that rampant disease caused by the animals’ confinement in the condo forced them to put to death all but two cats belonging to Luella Kretchman, who last week pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges. She will be sentenced Aug. 31.

“This is the worst situation I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been here,” said Judy Maitlin, the shelter director. “Some of the cats had feline leukemia and the rest had severe anemia, probably caused by extreme flea infestation.”

Of the 51 animals discovered in the three-bedroom condo, six were already dead and another 13 were in such bad condition they were put to sleep almost immediately. More were euthanized in the following weeks, animal control officials said.

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The remaining 18 cats and five dogs were put down by lethal injection last week, Maitlin said.

“We kept thinking maybe they would be OK, then two or three would get sicker,” she said. “Many of them were literally dying.”

A county veterinarian found some of the anemic animals had lost half the normal amount of blood because of flea bites, Maitlin said.

Although the shelter received many offers of adoption from the public, Maitlin said the remaining group had communicable diseases that could have been spread to other animals.

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“This is a very depressing and very scary situation,” she said. “I think Mrs. Kretchman is very well-meaning, but things got out of hand for her. That’s far too many animals for one individual to care for.”

The surviving two cats have been adopted by Kretchman’s son.

Kretchman on Monday angrily disputed the shelter’s explanation for euthanizing her pets.

“There’s no excuse for that,” she said. “I’m absolutely furious. I don’t believe they’re telling me the truth.”

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Kretchman said a county veterinarian told her that her cats had tested negative for feline leukemia, which shelter officials deny.

“My cats were all plump and sassy,” she said. “I wish I had access to their records. If I had enough money I’d sue these people.”

After neighbors complained about fleas and strong odors emanating from the condominium on the 23000 block of Via Reposa, animal control officers entering Kretchman’s home said they found dog and cat feces piled four inches high in some places.

Kretchman said the only piles of animal waste were near litter boxes.

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“Yes, there were a lot of fleas and my house was a terrible mess,” she said. “I have been sick lately, but my animals were still well-cared for and none of them were near death.”

She faces a potential six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If Kretchman receives probation instead, she could be prohibited from owning pets and could be required to have psychological counseling.

County ordinance limits residents to a maximum three dogs and three cats.


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