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13 freezing cats rescued from sub-zero temperatures after being abandoned in a winter storm, at least 3 still missing

Starsja pets a cat

Assistant Shelter Manager Erin Starsja pets one of seven male cats residing in isolation at the Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield after being abandoned in Richmond on Friday. The un-neutered male cats are recovering from malnutrition and dehydration, but are improving.

RICHMOND — The Berkshire Humane Society is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the party or parties responsible for the abandonment of 16 cats in the middle of a winter emergency over the weekend.

“This is horrible for a lot of different reasons,” said John Perreault, executive director of the Berkshire Humane Society. “For someone knowing that a weather emergency was coming, to do this is just horrific.”

Over the weekend, a small army of rescuers set out into the snow and cold to save more than a dozen cats who were dumped in the midst of a winter storm emergency.

Shortly before sunset on Friday, someone abandoned about 10 cats on a remote roadside in Richmond. And six more cats were dumped in Lanesborough a day later, according to Perrault. So far, 13 of the animals are safe and recovering in the custody of Berkshire Humane Society and its partner, Berkshire Animal Dreams.

The first batch of cats was discovered Friday evening by Joshua Christman, who was cruising down the boat access road to Richmond Pond when he came upon the cluster of cats and had to stop his truck, as first reported by WNYT Channel 13 News.

Christman, first bemused by the unusual scene, said he soon became concerned as he watched the animals shivering and meowing. One cat was so cold it climbed into the wheel well of his truck to warm up, he said.

He posted a plea for help on social media, and a group of animal lovers from around Berkshire County came to help — with pet crates, flashlights and blankets in hand. The search went on until after dark.

Among the helpers was Cara Petricca, operator of the Bluebird Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Cheshire, who posted on Facebook about the rescue.

One cat looks at the camera

One of seven male cats residing in isolation at the Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield is pictured.

“[Twenty] some-odd people showed up to search for these cats in the dark in freezing temps, Berkshire Humane, Berkshire Animal Dreams, Bluebird Farm, Kaila Drosehn, Carrie Craw, Alison Rose, and her mom Linda, so many faces I knew,” she wrote, “and many, many others were there with head lamps, carriers, and traps, crawling on their bellies to look under buildings. Neighbors came out to help.”

Eight of the cats in Richmond were recovered and transported to the shelter in Pittsfield, Perrault said.

About 6 p.m. Saturday, six more cats were abandoned on Hunter Mountain Road in Lanesborough. Five of them were rescued by volunteers and first responders just before the temperatures dipped below zero.

Petricca told The Eagle that there is no need to abandon cats when there are so many shelters and volunteers willing to help someone who can’t care for their pets any longer. And Perreault noted that anyone can surrender a pet at the shelter, and if they can’t afford the fee, the shelter will still take the pet.

He said the cats will be checked out for issues by a local veterinarian, and once they have been processed and treated, they will be put up for adoption. Many of them needed special attention. They ranged in age from 6 months to about 7 years old.

Some folks have already called to see if they can adopt one of the abandoned cats. It will be a few days or more before they are ready for adoption.

Meanwhile, volunteers and neighbors are keeping a watch for the remaining missing cats. Traps have been set out and neighbors are checking for them periodically, Perreault said.

He noted that all the cats from the Richmond scene are male, and all the cats found in Lanesborough are female. He speculated that might indicate that both incidents of abandonment could have been committed by the same party.

Either way, Perreault hopes the $1,000 reward leads to the arrest of whoever is responsible.

Perreault said he “felt bad for the volunteers that were out there. It was dark and cold, and then having to stop searching knowing that there were still cats out there in the snow — the last thing they wanted to do was walk away.”

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-4622.

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