FLOCK: Former chief may have been overwhelmed

FLOCK: Former chief may have been overwhelmed

Originally published on August 1, 2007

great kitty rescue pahrump nv
Credit Troy Snow

By CHRISTINA EICHELKRAUT
PVT

The question of blame for the horrible conditions in which hundreds of cats were found at a local sanctuary, run by For Love of Cats and Kittens, or FLOCK, still needs be answered, according to the nonprofit organization’s board of directors.

According to the directors and FLOCK’s president, Margaret Ward, they had no idea how badly conditions at the sanctuary for feral cats had deteriorated.

Ward said things began to go downhill at the sanctuary during the last couple of months that Sheri Allen, the former FLOCK president in charge of the local sanctuary, ran the facility.

According to Ward, however, the board had no reason to think the cats would be mistreated under Allen’s care.

“She’s a good person and she loves animals,” Ward said.

But over the course of the last few months, the board believes Allen began to take in more cats than Allen, the volunteers or the sanctuary could handle, and Allen possibly became overwhelmed.

FLOCK, which previously ran a sanctuary in Sloan, just outside of Las Vegas, moved the sanctuary to a two-and-a-half acre facility at the south end of Pahrump last year.

According to Sylvia Renee Lyss, a director, FLOCK moved from the Sloan sanctuary because there were simply too many cats for the organization to handle.

“People heard about us and were dropping cats off,” Lyss explained. “We would see a car in the distance open the door and then drive off.”

She estimated at one time the Sloan sanctuary had about 800 cats in and around the property.

There were so many, in fact, they had difficulty leaving the property without endangering wandering cats.

“We simply couldn’t control the number of cats we had,” Lyss said.

So FLOCK rented air-conditioned vans and moved what cats they could to the facility here.

“Every cat brought over was catalogued, photographed, and micro-chipped,” Ward said. “Ill cats were treated and they came here in perfect health.”

Lyss said when the cats were relocated to Pahrump, the sanctuary was “immaculate.”

According to Mike Marisischky, director and resident agent of FLOCK, contrary to recent reports in the media, the cats were all well-accommodated.

Marisischky said the perimeter fence of the property was topped with a mild, five-volt pet electric wire, not barbed wire.

Furthermore, Marisischky said that he personally fed the cats in the evening and his wife, who also worked for FLOCK, fed them in morning.

The huts and small buildings located around the property, according to Marisischky, were equipped with heaters and coolers.

Marisischky also said the huts were washed on a regular basis, including the day before the Best Friends Animal Society, the organization heading the rescue operation at the sanctuary, arrived.

Best Friends representatives reported the buildings as covered in urine and vomit, which Marisischky said can’t be true.

The resident agent added he personally was running four adoption centers at one time and working under Allen at the sanctuary for up to 60 hours a week.

But then things began to change.

According to Ward, FLOCK has specific policies in place for accepting cats: No kittens were to be accepted into the sanctuary and new cats were neutered or spayed, checked for disease, and given all their shots prior to being put in the sanctuary.

Lyss, however, said that during the last 10 weeks, Allen accepted up to 200 cats.

Marisischky added that he went into the sanctuary at one point during the last several weeks and was told by a volunteer that one of the buildings housed unspayed and non-neutered cats.

He added that when he went to the facility to pick up cats for adoption, he was discouraged from entering and that cats began to be brought out to him outside the facility.

Furthermore, board members said Allen began letting only select volunteers inside the facility.

Ward and other board members inspected the facility on May 28, and found it in what Ward called “horrible condition.”

The board decided to call a meeting, and notified Allen via a letter of a board meeting scheduled to take place May 30.

Allen never showed up to the meeting, however, and instead spent the day packing up her belongings and resigned.

“On May 29, I was informed that FLOCK was going to run the sanctuary with the same people as when they were in Sloan, but wanted me to remain President,” Allen wrote in a prepared statement released to the PVT. “I could not be a part of that. I voluntarily left the organization at 2:30 p.m., May 30, 2007.”

In addition, Allen submitted a stack of letters supporting her and her work at the shelter.

Many of the letters are from visitors and volunteers who said the sanctuary was clean and the cats well cared for.

“I’ve been at Sheri’s place several times, and I’ve seen many cats there that looked so hopeless and so close to death that most people would give up on them easily,” Nichole Boseck wrote. “But Sheri nurses them back to health and either keeps them or finds homes for them.”

In addition, the packet submitted by Allen includes copies of checks made out to FLOCK for donations and personal testimony of food being delivered.

When Allen didn’t show up to the meeting, Ward said she and Lyss went to the sanctuary.

They found it in deplorable condition, they said, and Allen gone.

“The only place we saw food and water put out was in the heat,” Ward said. “The food was in plastic bowls that were broken, and the cats were trying to eat from the broken plastic pieces.”

In addition, Ward said a building that had been designated as a hospital building was found with no cooler in it.

Allen, however, submitted a letter written by Damon Port, who volunteered at the shelter, who wrote that was not true.

Port said he helped Allen to clear her belongings from the premises, and that “all the cats were perfectly healthy. The food and water dishes were full, and the litter boxes were clean, and the houses were clean.”

Ward said it was FLOCK, not Nye County Animal Control that then contacted the Best Friends Animal Society to help take care of the cats.

The board was told Best Friends would get back to them to tell them what their plans were.

Instead, Ward said Tim McCarty of Nye County Animal Control contacted them on July 13th and refused to re-inspect the facility.

Ward added that contrary to reports, FLOCK has only leased control of the facility to Nye County Animal Control until the rescue operation is complete, and after that will regain control of the sanctuary.

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