Rescue Operation Gives Hundreds of Abused and Neglected Cats Another Chance

Wed, Jan 2, 2008

Animal Welfare

Best Friends Rescue Project

I’d like to set aside the fancy cat beds for a minute and share with you some information about a very special cat rescue project. This is a heartbreaking story, but one with a happy ending due to an unbelievable rescue effort. It’s difficult to hear about what went on here, but it is a story that needs to be told in order to prevent similar situations.

We spent the last three days in Pahrump, Nevada volunteering with this project. There are several different versions of what happened according to various organizations and individuals involved, but the basic facts of the case are as follows; a Las Vegas-based cat rescue organization called FLOCK (For the Love of Cats and Kittens) was running a cat sanctuary in Pahrump, NV, where they were keeping hundreds of cats in deplorable conditions. The situation was reported to the Nye County Animal Control department, which then visited the site for an assessment. Due to the number of cats and the condition of the animals, the situation was beyond what animal control could handle so they called on the Best Friends Animal Society for assistance. A team of staff and volunteers from Best Friends immediately took over the sanctuary and started feeding and caring for the cats, evaluating them medically, and preparing the cats for adoption. This was in mid-July of 2007.

Reports on the number of cats vary, ranging from 400 to as many as 800 cats. When they arrived in July, the Best Friends staff and volunteers worked in the blazing desert heat to separate the cats into manageable groups, clean the existing facilities, build new fences and other infrastructure, and give the cats the medical attention and nutrition that they so desperately needed.

While we were there this week, we spoke with Sherry Woodard, an animal behavior specialist at Best Friends. Sherry has been at the Pahrump facility since July. We were told she has only left the grounds twice since July, and then only to go into town for dinner. Sherry was also an integral part of the Best Friends animal rescue after Hurricane Katrina. We met several of the other amazing people working with Sherry to rehabilitate and socialize the cats. This is a team of people who are completely dedicated to the welfare of these cats and who will do whatever it takes to make these animals healthy again and keep them feeling safe and loved.

Best Friends Rescue Project

At this point, there are 218 cats remaining at the Pahrump facility. The other 200+ cats have been either adopted to loving homes or–in the cases of those cats who needed special medical care–¬Ěmoved to the Best Friends main facility in Kanab, Utah. Unfortunately, some of the cats originally found at the facility did not make it. One volunteer donated a lion statue that sits in the center of a beautiful memorial on the site, commemorating the lives that were lost. The remaining 218 cats are all being cared for in the small houses pictured above. Some of the cats have been diagnosed with FIV and/or Feline Leukemia. These cats have been separated into their own houses and are getting the special attention that they need. Each house is carefully maintained by expert caregivers who look after the cats.

Our volunteer duties consisted mainly of helping to socialize this group of remaining cats. These are the cats that were the most frightened and who need more time to trust humans again. According to the reports we heard from the Best Friends staff, when the facility was handed over to Best Friends, the cat population was extremely malnourished, to the point of starvation, and completely dehydrated. Many cats had infections and other diseases and they were all living together in one large open area with little protection from the hot desert sun. There are even reports of human violence toward the cats.

How did this happen?

This is actually a case of what is called institutional hoarding. In this case, one individual from the FLOCK organization, Sheri Allen, was in charge of this facility and it seems that she and the people she had working for her were perpetuating this horror for some unknown reason. At first this sounds like a sad story about a group of stray and feral cats, but it gets worse. After Best Friends took over, it became clear that FLOCK was trapping cats in Las Vegas including not just ferals and strays, but also some pets, and taking them to the Pahrump facility. Some of these cats were microchipped and/or wearing tags with contact info, but no attempt was made to contact their owners.

The Best Friends website has an entire section dedicated to the Nye County cat rescue where you can read the news stories from the beginning of the rescue to today. This site also includes a number of heartwarming stories of people who were eventually reunited with their pets after finding out about what had happened.

I also want you to be aware of two other websites that tell a different version of the story. First, there is Sheri Allen’s website where she tries to paint a picture showing that everything was just fine at the sanctuary while she was in charge. Then there is the official FLOCK website which tells their side of the story. There may be others out there that tell yet another version. After having been there and having talked to some of the people involved, it seems that FLOCK has some serious internal problems and something needs to be done to insure that this does not happen again.

Pahrump Cats

The next step

In a few weeks, a truck will leave the Pahrump facility with about 100 of the remaining cats and travel across the U.S. on a very special adoption tour. These cats, who have been lovingly nursed back to health, will be available for adoption to special homes. It will be very important that the adopting homes understand what these cats have been through, but also what wonderful cats they are. They may take a little extra time to adjust to a new home, but they will be amazing companions.

And I have to say they are incredibly beautiful! I have four cats at home who are fed only natural food and distilled water and they are very spoiled. Well, my guys look like a bunch of ragamuffins compared to the Pahrump cats! The Best Friends staff and volunteers have given these cats outstanding nutrition and care. Every cat that I touched has the most beautiful coat I’ve ever seen or felt. It is absolutely impossible to believe that they were starving and neglected less than six months ago.

Pahrump Cats

I plan to post updates on the adoption tour. If the truck comes to a city near you, you’ll definitely want to stop by to see these beauties. There are also other ways you can help out by volunteering or donating to the cause. Details are on the Best Friends site.

. . .

Read the follow-up to this story here.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin



16 Responses to “Rescue Operation Gives Hundreds of Abused and Neglected Cats Another Chance”

  1. 1

    Thanks for telling us about this sad situation……

    Spaying and neutering is so critical…..

    I hope everyone of these animals finds a loving home.

  2. 2
    Barbara Benjamin

    A wonderfully written commentary on a very sad situation. Thank goodness for people like you who give freely of your time and energy to take care of and change a very dangerous situation. Let’s hope that all those beautiful cats find wonderful homes who will care for and love them as much as they deserve.

  3. 3

    What a wonderful thing for you to help with! The Cat Blogosphere actively supports Best Friends (the LL’s b-day presents were the sponsorship of a horse and a donation to Siamese Rescue). Its so important for all of us to remember to help the kitties in need.

  4. 4
    Sherry Woodard

    Thank you for your help here in Pahrump and in getting the word out. We had 4 cats adopted yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. 5

    How awful. I am so sorry to hear that what seem like good intentions can go so far astray (no pun intended). Thank you for helping and for letting us know what is going on.

  6. 6

    This is such a sad story, it made me want to weep at the stupidity of so-called well meaning organisations who affect both animals and children with their crazy schemes. But then, I realised how lucky these gorgeous cats are to have feline lovers such as you guys and the team who have been working at Pahrump. Thank you for giving them a life and your valuable time to save them !

  7. 7

    THANK YOU for using your writing skills to get this message out to yet more readers. Every positive message on behalf of the cats is very helpful. As a lifelong cat lover/adopter/rescuer, my gratitude goes out to you.

  8. 8

    Thank you for highlighting this situation on your Web site and for giving of yourself by donating the time and energy to get out there in the Nevada desert and help emotionally heal these precious creatures. You’re obviously a special person who is using her talents to make the world a better place. God bless.

  9. 9
    Connie Chambers

    Thanks so much for this well-written & well-rounded report about the Best Friends’ Nye County cat rescue operation. Although I’ve been unable to volunteer at Pahrump, I’ve been following the story on the BF Network website since the beginning. I’m so pleased that you’re spreading the word about their incredible work to an even larger audience. Many blessings for sharing your time & talent.

  10. 10
    Andrea K

    Thank you for bringing attention to the Pahrump kitties and for helping out over the New Year. My partner and I volunteered three times in Pahrump, from September to November last year and we will never forget it! That was the worst hoarding situation I’ve ever experienced, nothing comes even close. During our first time there it was still very hot, and the cats (there were still over 700 at that time) were all in the courtyard. We’ve scooped massive amounts of kitty poop while a horrible duststorm was constantly blowing everything in all directions. It felt more like a war zone than cat rescue. What Flock did is unforgivable – we’ve seen the photos from July and some of these kitties had maggots crawling all over them and were literally starved to death. Pahrump is in one of the third largest counties in the U.S. and has one of the weakest animal protection laws – something that has to change and it’s up to all of us to demand better laws. Without them, Animal Control has no power over these crazy hoarders (and there’s plenty of them in Pahrump!).
    We’re really grateful for Best Friends to have taken on such a massive rescue. They are an amazing group.

  11. 11
    Denise Davis

    Everyone who has helped with this rescue holds in their heart something that words can not describe. You have to be there to truly know the width and breath of what these cats have been through. With the help of articles like this one we get a glimpse of the horrors of institutional hoarding.

    These cats will have their day in Nye County court with the people responsible for the abuse and neglect. We can only hope that through this landmark case that the animal control laws will tighten up in Nye County and the effects of institutional hoarding will get more press and recognition to help other cats in similar situations.

    Many thanks to you and all others who have helped with this rescue, especially Best Friends. It is truly incredible the amount of love that has been given to each and everyone of these cats.

  12. 12

    Thanks for helping spread the word about the Pahrump kitties, and how this awful situation resulted from hoarding. I was there in August and cannot believe there are people who could let this happen. Thank heavens for Best Friends!

  13. 13
    Jane Robbins

    This is an incredible story! It reveals both sides of human nature. May the energy and dedication of members of Best Friends increase.

  14. 14
    Marina Michaels

    Thank you for posting this!

    Sheri Allen may protest her innocence, but according to this article (, she had “114 cats plus two dogs and a handful of pocket pets” in her home. She was “arrested and charged with 125 counts of animal cruelty in connection with the severe health conditions of animals in her home.” Doesn’t sound very innocent to me.

  15. 15

    thank you so much for helping these cats i wish thier were alot more peopl like you guys

  16. 16
    Alicia Ling Horsley

    What you’ve described, sadly happens all over the world. I’d like to commend your efforts and praise your style. But most of all, I’d like to thank the person who reported FLOCK. That took courage, conviction and something else I’m having trouble naming. The reason I know how hard it is, is because I am currently in a similar situation (having knowledge of a potential hoarding situation) and finding it very difficult to decide what to do.

Leave a Reply