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Lefkowitzes signed over ownership of cats last week

catsOn June 7, nearly 700 cats were seized from Haven Acres cat sanctuary in High Springs.  Alachua County Animal Services will be conducting adoptions for about 620 cats on Aug. 27 and 28.

The hundreds of furry and fluffy cats and kittens seized from a High Springs sanctuary in June will soon be available for adoption, Alachua County Animal Services Director David Flagler said.   The seizure caught the attention of national news media, resulting in a slew of stories about the felines and Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary, which was reported to have been keeping the cats in poor conditions.

Alachua County Animal Services seized 697 cats on June 7, from Haven Acres.  The removal was the largest of its type in county history and required the assistance of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which both took lead roles in the operation.

Now that ownership of the cats has been transferred to the County, Flagler said his office is planning an upcoming adoption event to place them in new homes.

Of the original 697 cats taken from the sanctuary, he said about 620 remain. More than 70 of the felines died or were euthanized after veterinary staff determined they were beyond treatment, he said.

An adoption event is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 27 and 28 at the warehouse where they are being kept.  Flagler said his office is working with other agencies to potentially handle some of the cats. “Arrangements are being made to disperse the animals that do not find a home at the adoption event.”

Before being adopted into a new home, Flagler said the cats will meet Alachua County Animal Services adoption standards, unless special arrangements are made.  Those standards include each pet having all of its vaccinations, a microchip and being spayed or neutered.

More firm plans on the adoption event will be available in the coming days on the Alachua County Animal Services Web site at www.alachuapets.com, Flagler said.

In July, Alachua County revoked a special exception permit that allowed Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary to operate.

In a June interview, Alachua County Code Enforcement Director Rick Wolf said, “The basis for requesting revocation is because of failure to comply with numerous conditions.”

One such violation was the keeping of nearly 700 cats, well beyond the 200-cat limit placed on the facility.

Pennie and Steve Lefkowitz, who operated Haven Acres, apparently did not publicly object to the revocation.

Wolf said occasional odor complaints from neighboring homeowners in the Edgemoor neighborhood would prompt a closer look.  But after he and other code enforcement officers visited the site in February, Wolf said his office was unable to substantiate complaints that would have violated the odor management plan.

The feline population at the sanctuary reportedly ballooned between February and June, in part because organizations from as far away as Orlando were sending cats to the sanctuary according to Flagler.

Flagler estimates the cost to the County for the seizure operation and caring for the felines will be about $35,000.  Most of that cost accounts for the overtime involved with operating two separate animal shelters.  He said the operation has cost the HSUS an estimated $400,000.