By Patric Hedlund
LEBEC (Thursday, March 4, 2010, 11 a.m.)—The Mountain Enterprise has confirmed that Guy Shaw, director of Kern County Animal Control, came in person on Tuesday, March 2 to the Cause 4 Cats facility in Lebec for an unannounced inspection.
"That was my first unannounced visit," Shaw said, "I felt I needed to go up to see what was going on for myself."
The Cause 4 Cats Lebec site is a home with several "catteries" —free-standing sheds under 120 square feet— on the grounds. Lolette Robrahn, founder and owner of Cause 4 Cats, admits that they shelter more than the 150-cat limit set in the Conditional Use Permit from the county. There may be 180 or so cats there frequently. Many of those are inside the house, some free-roaming, some in cages, according to volunteers.
Robrahn said that "it was a little embarrassing, because we rely on volunteers and workers to do much of the cleaning, and they set their own hours; most hadn’t been there yet when [Shaw and staff] came." She said that her duties are mainly to feed, water and provide medication to the cats. Robrahn said one of the things Shaw told her they wanted was for clean-up to start earlier in the day, "at 8 a.m."
In an interview Thursday, March 4, Shaw said that "in a facility like that, we’d like to have them work to clean up earlier rather than later. it is a long night…we would like it to be continual. It was a suggestion that we gave her."
Shaw said he did recommend that Cause 4 Cats rearrange the use of the interior space, "more for the health of the people even than for the cats." He suggested that the humans’ living spaces should be separated from the areas in which the cats are allowed to roam.
"We want to see her reduce the number [of cats within the house] because the way the cats are in the house is detrimental to humans and to the cats—more detrimental to the humans—so we want her to organize better within the house."
Shaw also said that a new ordinance had been passed by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in February which will require that Cause 4 Cats apply for a permit as a commercial kennel.
"She needs to get her application in so we can permit her and so she can meet whatever code compliance requires her to do. We will revisit her and she will need to continue to meet the requirements of her permit…."
Robrahn said she has been touched by the donations that have come in the mail and by the new volunteers that are coming to help. She said "there are human stories behind most of the cats that are here, they are here for a reason. Sometimes people have died, and there is no place for their pets to go…this is a 24-7 operation. We were up ’til three medicating the cats and making up meds and cleaning last night. There is a lot of work to be done here and we don’t have enough help. We could use more volunteers.
"We could especially use strong men with construction skills to volunteer their time outside on the catteries, to put in pavers for the floor and put up chain link fencing and, when we can afford the materials, we need to get these roofs on the catteries fixed. The wind did a lot of damage. We’ve had to have everything tarped. It has been hard to keep everything dry and comfortable for the cats. It has meant a lot more laundry, to replace and dry bedding. I have one in my lap right now that caught a cold…."
Robrahn’s number is 248-0299 if you would like to volunteer.
This is part of the February 26, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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