Nearly 200 dogs, cats rescued from no kill shelter

BONNE TERRE, MO (KFVS) - Workers at an animal rescue in St. Francois County are speaking out after 124 dogs, 67 cats and four puppies were seized from the shelter Tuesday.

Authorities took away every cat, and every dog from the St. Francois Society in Bonne Terre.

It is a no kill shelter that has been in business for the last 14 years. The future of the not-for-profit business is now in question.

"It's quiet. It's never quiet here," said Joseph Bridger, manager of the St. Francois Society.

It is silent and empty. Workers at the St. Francois Society say their rescue typically adopts out 600 to 800 animals a year.

"We took in animals no one else wanted," said Bridger.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture conducts annual un-announced inspections at shelter's like the one in Bonne Terre. The visit there came last month. Then there was a follow up at the first of the week.

"When they came on Monday to do the inspection they talked to our veterinarian, and they acted like everything was fine," said Bridger.

On Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture along with local authorities, and the Humane Society of Missouri removed more than 100 dogs and more than 60 cats from the facility.

Investigators say many of the animals on the property were suffering from hair loss and coughing. Dozens of cats were reportedly found inside trash-strewn rooms filled with cobwebs. Many of the animals, according to investigators, appeared to have upper respiratory infections and possibly internal and external parasites.

Those are all things shelter manager Joseph Bridger disputes.

"They're trying to say we're not doing our jobs, I don't understand," said Bridger.

He says the animals were fine.

There is trash piling up on the property, but Bridger says that's just a week's worth.

He also claims a big part of the mess at the shelter was caused by investigators during the removal of the animals.

"We're still trying to put the place back together," said Bridger.

The owner of the operation, Diana Blackwell, actually lives on the property.  She is currently with family in California.  The facility's license was revoked.

Meanwhile, Bridger and other workers wonder if they'll still have a job.

"I'm hanging in as long as I can," said Bridger.

The manager at the shelter admits the shelter has struggled with overcrowding.

He says they had about 288 dogs and cats, and recently got numbers under 200.

The animals are all in St. Louis. A disposition hearing will be held on April 11 in St. Francois County.

If custody is awarded to the Humane Society of Missouri, many of the animals will be made available for adoption.

According to the Debbie Hill, Vice President for the Humane Society of Missouri, these type of rescues at shelters are quite rare.

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