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Cats rescued from 'sanctuary'

In the largest rescue effort the Huntingdon County Humane Society has ever undertaken as a single organization, staff and volunteers aided Huntingdon Borough Police and Huntingdon Borough code enforcement in rescuing more than 60 cats in Huntingdon Borough Sunday morning.

The cats were found in a residence in the borough, as well as a rented moving van, and were under the care of Rose Cottage Sanctuary Inc., a 501©3 nonprofit organization that was founded in February 2016.

A total of 38 cats were removed from the rental van and 22 were removed from the residence. Three felines removed from the van were found deceased, and one cat was discovered already deceased inside of the residence.

A press release from the humane society indicates that complaints about the residence were made with Huntingdon Borough Police and Huntingdon Borough code enforcement officers about the residence.

According to humane society officials, the conditions in which the cats were found could only be described as deplorable.

“The house is unlivable between the urine, the feces and the flies, maggots and fleas. As soon as you pulled up in front of it, the smell hit you,” said HCHS board president Sandee Warsing, who is also a longtime veterinary technician. “Those poor cats had been breathing that for months or even years.”

According to Huntingdon Borough solicitor Rich Wilson, there are no animals on the property at 1422 Oneida St. at this time.

“Currently, the property has been declared uninhabitable by the borough and a notice has been posted at the property,” said Wilson. “The property is extremely dangerous and off limits to the public, including the owner.”

Warsing further explained the conditions as HCHS staff and volunteers had to deal with as rescue efforts were taking place.

“We had to gear up with masks, gloves and boots and had to take frequent trips back outside to get fresh air as we worked. The house had no running water, and there were only a few rooms with electricity,” said Warsing. “There were cats in the basement, first floor, second floor and in the attic. All were malnourished, dehydrated, anemic and had severe respiratory issues. They had chemical burns on their skin from the urine and feces.”

“The odor coming off the van was noticeable from a block away. The smell of decomposition was overpowering,” added Sandy Hess, HCHS treasurer and a veterinary technician, one of many staff and volunteers aiding in rescue efforts over the Labor Day weekend.

“When we approached the van, numerous cats were visible on the dashboard and on the front seats. The passenger side window was cracked and several cats reached their paws out to us,” said Hess.

The rental van was towed to a Huntingdon Borough maintenance shed to allow for the safe removal of cats.

“When they loaded the van onto the flatbed, we observed large piles of maggots on the pavement under it and they were falling from the crevices of the doors,” said Hess. “When we started removing the cats, feces covered almost all of the interior surfaces of the van and it was soaked in urine. Some of the cats were in crates. The only food was in a bag with maggots all through it and there were no litter boxes or water.”

The press release from the humane society noted that of the cats that survived, nearly half were in critical condition and taken for immediate veterinary care. A veterinarian, after examination of all of the cats, determined that 22 had to be euthanized due to their failing health. One female also gave birth to four kittens upon arrival at the shelter.

Warsing added that even prior to this weekend’s rescue, the shelter was already at capacity with the number of cats in their care, but she commended her staff and volunteers for stepping to help in this case.

“Every one of them came to work and worked overtime,” she said. “They are the most supportive staff that any organization could ever ask for. They have gone far beyond what we asked. We didn’t have to even contact them, and they came to help. Some weren’t scheduled to work, but they came to work. I can’t stay enough about them. They deserve a lot of respect.”

She also noted that while she’s been a part of rescue operations before, she said this has one that has taken an emotional toll on everyone involved.

“I’ve been through things like this before, this one really hit your heart,” said Warsing.

Currently, all of the felines at the humane society are being held in a separate quarantine area as their health will continue to be monitored.

“We have them all together so they’re not exposed to other animals,” she said. “We have made accommodations for them. Some are still under care and need follow-ups (with a vet), and some are still questionable as far as their health is concerned.”

Warsing also added the cats will not be available for adoption until all legal proceedings in this matter have been dealt with.

“These cats are in our care until this is taken care of, and it could be weeks or even months before that happens,” she said.

She also gave advice for those who are looking to help any animal by finding a rescue to aid them.

“Anyone who wants to support a rescue must make sure they check the organization out thoroughly,” said Warsing. “Check with the veterinarian the rescue works with. If the rescue will not provide that information for you or allow you to view the facility — including the animals’ living quarters — walk away.”

Humane society officials are asking for donations and specific supplies to aid in the continuing care of the rescued cats. If anyone wants to learn more about how they can help, they can contact the shelter at 643-7387 or visit their Facebook page by searching for Huntingdon County Humane Society.

Wilson commended those involved with working to resolve the issue.

“This is not a normal code issue and Huntingdon Borough Police Officers, 911 dispatchers, the Huntingdon County Humane Society and Jim Morris need to be commended for how this situation was handled,” he said. “There is no playbook for a situation like this.”

Wilson said future plans for the property will be determined by Huntingdon Borough Council.

“It is a very sad and scary situation at this property,” he said.

Charges are pending in this matter. Calls made to the District Attorney’s office were not returned as of press time.

Parking spaces, tank, part of forestry project

Earth is being moved at the Rothrock State Forest District Office in Smithfield Township, the facility is expanding the parking lot and will also soon install an underground water tank for wildfire suppression.

“We’re adding 15 parking slots and making a circle going around our yard,” said Jodi Skipper, assistant district forester of operations and maintenance. “When we get deliveries it’s often difficult for the trucks to turn around, so we’re making a loop for them to get in and out more easily.”

The project is expected to be done at some point this fall.

“Hopefully the parking lot will be done by the end of October,” said Skipper.

In another project, a 5-ton underground water tank will soon be installed on the premises, along with an accompanying drainage system to collect rainwater.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry, which Rothrock State Forest District Office falls under, is responsible for protecting the commonwealth’s 17 million acres of public and private wild lands from damage by wildfire.

“We’ll be ordering (the tank) soon, it will be there in case we need to use it for wildfire suppression and should be really useful,” said Skipper.

The greatest danger of wildfires in Pennsylvania occurs during the spring months of March, April, and May, and the autumn months of October and November. In Pennsylvania, 99 percent of all wildfires are caused by people.

Having such a tank on site will take away the worry of having a shortage of water should a wildfire break out in the surrounding area.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Baseball greats inducted into hall of fame

Five individuals were inducted into the Broad Top Area Old-timers Hall of Fame during ceremonies held Monday afternoon in Broad Top City. The ceremonies were held at the Broad Top City Park & Recreation Association baseball field.

This year’s hall of fame inductees included Paul E. Wright, William N. “Bill” Black, the late Ronnie Wright, Rick Reed and Jim Stetchock.

Association president Allen Swope inducted Paul Wright. Swope said Wright has been around baseball for many years and first played baseball in a Teener League under the Boy Scouts.

Wright was a pitcher and outfielder for Six Mile Run and Trough Creek in the Huntingdon County League. Swope recalled some of Wright’s pitching successes on the baseball diamond, stating he was a hard competitor and has been a big part of the Broad Top Old-timers organization for over 30 years.

An emotional Wright said while he loved to play baseball, he didn’t think he was very good at it. One of his highlights was coaching a Little League team that went to Pittsburgh to play in the championships in 1965.

Ronnie Wright’s award was accepted by his son Matt and grandson Matthew and was presented by Old-timers official Raymond Taylor. Taylor recalled Mr. Wright’s prowess on the baseball field as a good hitter and shortstop.

Matt Wright said it was a tremendous honor for him to be present to accept the award on his late father’s behalf. He said he was glad to see members of his family present to share this special day.

Black’s three daughters and great-grandson escorted him to the field to receive his honor Monday. His eldest daughter, Danyelle, recalled that her father played Little League, five years in the Huntingdon County League, an umpire for the Huntingdon and Fulton county leagues for 20 years and played slow-pitch softball for 20 years.

Black also coach 10-15 years of Little League and Women’s slow-pitch softball. She said it was an honor for she and her sisters to present their father’s induction plaque to him.

Swope inducted Reed. His four grandchildren escorted him onto the field.

Swope recalled that Reed starting playing Little League in Saxton in 1962 and baseball later for Tussey Mountain while a student there. He also played baseball in a pony league for Saxton.

Swope said he played on the same team and that Reed loved to hit the ball and served as team catcher and loved to throw out players at second base.

Reed has also loved and played softball and has been the coach at different high schools. He is currently the girls’ softball coach at the Everett High School.

John Stetchock inducted his brother, Jim Stetchock, into the hall of fame. John Stetchock said he and his brother played baseball for quite a few years in the 1960s and 1970s and also played a little fast-pitch softball in Huntingdon.

The brothers also played baseball for Trough Creek. John Stetchock said his brother had the ability to hit a ball far and did so through the use of strong wrists. He congratulated his brother for his induction into the association.

Tussey Mountain Girls’ Softball Coach Sandy Kay Rickabaugh acknowledged the Old-timers Association for not only recognizing men in sports but also women, noting there has been and will be a lot of upcoming talent from young women on Broad Top Mountain. Rickabaugh introduced team MVP Maria Morales as a quiet leader and that her actions do not need words.

Rickabaugh said Morales accomplished many things and always done so without complaint. Morales is the daughter of Mary Morales and attends Mount Aloysius where she is enrolled in the nursing program.

Tussey Mountain Boys’ Baseball Coach Casey Kuhns presented the 2019 Boys Baseball Most Valuable Player of the Year Award to Jordan Berkstresser. Kuhns said it was an honor to be able to present Berkstresser with the award. Berkstresser, he said, was a great leader who led by example, showed up every day to do his job and gave the team everything he had.

Kuhns said Berkstresser is going to be a hard player to replace. As a senior captain, Kuhns said Berskstresser was very willing and capable of leading the team.

The Rev. Jeff Musser, pastor of the Reality Church of God in Robertsdale, gave the invocation and Heidi Gates and Lewis Winfield sang the national anthem and a special memorial tribute song to deceased members.

Area “soundman” DJ Eugene Kaminsky served as master of ceremonies. Saxton fire queen and Huntingdon County and Central District Fire Queen first runner-up Morgan Starr also participated in the event.

A dinner was held following the game at the Broad Top City community center located adjacent to the field.

Adam can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

New roof installed at SCI Huntingdon

Those passing SCI Huntingdon along Pennsylvania Avenue in Smithfield Township have likely noticed more activity than usual behind the property’s fences in recent weeks.

The state Department of Corrections is replacing the roof on the facility’s gymnasium, with the project expected to be completed within approximately three weeks.

The project began three weeks ago by Lobar Inc., a construction company out of Dillsburg.

SCI maintenance supervisor Christian Stone said the original roof was installed in the mid 1930s and that it will be replaced by a rubber roof that will meet all environmental standards.

SCI Huntingdon is Pennsylvania’s oldest state correctional institution in continuous operation.

Connie Green, the superintendent’s assistant at SCI Huntingdon, said “new lighting is included in the project.”

SCI Huntingdon was created by an act of the General Assembly June 12, 1878. A group of commissioners appointed for the purpose of selecting a proper site decided on the present location along the Juniata River.

In 1945, the institution was officially declared the Pennsylvania Institution for Defective Delinquents.

SCI Huntingdon made its change to become a maximum security adult male state correctional institution in 1960.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.


Jen Newingham, left, and Stacey Phillips of Huntingdon, requested a sample from Woody Lodge Winery of Ashville, Cambria County, one of 10 area wine producers that participated in Saturday’s Wine Down Weekend event downtown Huntingdon. The event has become a Labor Day weekend tradition in Huntingdon.

Blood donors needed to benefit kids with cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the American Red Cross is asking for eligible donors to give blood, as they are experiencing a shortage.

“Right now we don’t have an adequate supply,” said Regina Boothe Bratton, a spokesperson at the American Red Cross. “The blood is for all cancer patients, but September is childhood awareness month and we want to shed light particularly on the kids because some of these kids are in jeopardy of not getting the appropriate treatment.”

Across the country “it’s a constant scramble to get folks through the door”, and as it stands the Red Cross only has a three-day supply of blood.

“It’s a very critical time right now. Blood is perishable, but we should always have a five-day supply,” said Bratton.

There are opportunities in Huntingdon County in the coming weeks to donate.

Folks can donate from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Huntingdon Area High School, and from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, at Ellis Hall at Juniata College.

The National Cancer Institute estimated that more than 15,000 children and adolescents in the U.S. would be diagnosed with cancer last year. Childhood cancer patients may need blood products on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications.

Cancer and cancer treatments can put patients at risk for low red blood cell and platelet counts.

Blood and platelet transfusions can enable patients to receive critical treatments needed to fight and survive cancer.

Bratton recalled the story of a 3-year-old, Carson, who was diagnosed with brain cancer. The child’s doctor told his mother that there was another child who needed prioritized, so Carson’s treatment was delayed due to a blood shortage.

“This just one example, there are hundreds of Carsons out there. The need for blood is constant,” said Bratton. It’s a very serious situation. A lot of people don’t realize that blood transfusions play a critical role not only in cancer treatments, but to treat opioid addictions and other conditions around the globe. The need for blood is constant.”

To donate, a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age , weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.