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T.E.A.R.S. Press Release – January 2, 2010

January 2, 2010

Contact:           Lee Anne Bennett                                             For Immediate Release

Vice President, TEARS

Telephone:        205-907-6409

BOARD MEMBERS OF TEARS RELEASE VIDEO OF CATS IN CRISIS

A mobile home can be a good shelter for humans and animals alike; however, the unventilated, unsanitary, cold and dark trailer housing more than 70 sick cats was a scene that prompted board members to take action and volunteers to file animal cruelty charges December 13, 2009.

Board members of The Emergency Animal Rescue Service (TEARS), a nonprofit animal rescue and shelter located in Birmingham, Alabama are today releasing video taken at one of the trailers located on Tears’ property. The video was shot by volunteer Danyell Jackson before the report was filed.

Board members had repeatedly pleaded with former Director Terra Cotromano to address the condition of the cats without success. The unaddressed condition of the animals prompted them to go to the property late in the afternoon on December 13th. Board members Beverly Lepore and Lee Anne Bennett along with volunteers Danyell Jackson and David Young entered TEARS to help the cats. Upon entering the trailer the group found furniture coated with feces, urine, and mucous.

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“Every cat was struggling to breathe,” said David Young. “Cats were everywhere and they all seemed to be coughing and sneezing. The sound of the wheezing was horrible. There were about three heat lamps in the trailer. Cats were huddled in small masses trying to get as close to the orange lights as possible.” said Board President Beverly Lepore. The police report states that as the group was leaving TEARS property, they were attacked by a pack of aggressive dogs allegedly released by the former Director.

Veterinarians Barbara Monoghan, Cindy Williams, Mark Pelham, and Libby Todd of Liberty and Kelly Animal Hospitals are providing the health assessments and medical recommendations to Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies on site at TEARS. Dr. Monoghan confirmed today that every cat in the trailer is sick and suffering from upper respiratory illness. Health professionals on site believe the cats can recover.

TEARS board members hired attorney John Saxon to help them obtain a temporary restraining order which was granted earlier this week. They also hired nonprofit governance consultant Allison Black Cornelius of BlackBOARD Consulting to help the board in its oversight functions.

Officials have told TEARS it may take up to 4 days to process animals each of which are being assessed, recorded, and treated.  None of the animals on the site had identification. Extremely sick and injured animals are being transported out by Birmingham-Jefferson County Animal Control in order to receive proper care. Deputy Dwight Sloan ensured that no animals are being euthanized.

The condition of most of the animals is hopeful and euthanasia has not been used. Jefferson County Sheriff Deputies are on site and receiving assistance from a large group of animal professionals including the Humane Society of the United States, the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Liberty Animal Hospital, Kelly Animal Hospital and TEARS’ volunteers. The team has volunteered their services and worked 14 hour days since December 30 including all day New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. “We could not have saved these animals without this collaboration.” said Lepore.

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Board members met with sheriff’s deputies yesterday and filed a report regarding financial irregularities and more than $69,000.00 in unaccounted cash withdrawals from the charity.  President Beverly Lepore and Lee Anne Bennett reported the financial issues to a Regions’ Bank manager and froze bank accounts a few weeks ago. “We are asking the public to stop making cash contributions to the organization since we cannot ensure appropriate financial oversight at this time. We cannot get our financial documents from the TEARS office since the former Director is living inside and has refused to leave the property.” said Ms. Bennett. Officials on site believe there are more than 30 dogs and various other wildlife in the trailer with the former Director.

If the public wishes to make cash contributions, Lepore suggests making them to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society or the Humane Society of the United States. “Both agencies have spent a great deal of their resources the past few days to help us save these precious animals.” said Lepore.

Cats Struggle to Breathe in Horrible Conditions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ts5hFgfsOmw

Cats in Horrible Condition Video 2:h

ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qiqa8tQB2fk

Cats in Horrible Condition Video 3:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rKbjRSpCQQ

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Additional comments may be obtained by speaking with any member of the animal assessment team on site. Due to the investigation in progress comments may be limited.

Deputy Dwight Sloan, Jefferson County Animal Cruelty Investigator

John Saxon, Attorney – Saxon Law Firm

Jacque Meyer, Executive Director Greater Birmingham Humane Society 205-942-1211

Veterinarians at Liberty Animal Hospital and Kelly Animal Hospital

Mark Pelham, DVM     205-746-6223

Barbara Monoghan, DVM        205-542-9312

END

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