State investigators in Illinois are trying to locate over 1,200 cats are alleged missing from Chicago's Animal Control Department. The animals were transferred to a suburban animal shelter called Purrs From The Heart over the course of this year, which placed them in foster homes to avoid euthanization. But, according to the Chicago Tribune, the city received a written complaint about inhumane conditions at the shelter, and promptly banned it from taking additional cats out of the city pound because many of the cats that were fostered couldn't be located:
Now, a week into its inquiry, the state says it cannot account for 1,216 cats that Purrs From The Heart took between April and September. The number of animals involved, spokesman Jeff Squibb said, ranks the case among the largest animal welfare investigations ever conducted by the department. The shelter's operators say they've spoken with state investigators, but blame alleged mistreatment of the cats on the tenants of an apartment they said they paid to care for some of the animals, but with whom the foster care agreement soured.
The shelter is only legally authorized to care for up to 28 animals at a given time. But Sherry Przybylski, who operates the nonprofit with her husband, said that the couple took in a lot of sick cats, many of whom died. "But we took it all on," she told the Tribune. "The surgeries, the sickness, the giving fluids every couple of hours and sadly, the death that occurred with many." Her husband Brian Przybylski blamed the city for allowing them to take too many cats from the shelter. The couple plans to shut down their shelter by the end of the year, and will transfer their remaining cats to other shelters.
The investigation is ongoing and the Przybylski's may face administrative penalties from the Agriculture Department for violations of the state's Animal Welfare Act if the state believes a criminal offense has occurred.