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Rescued from a House of Horror

Marie, from the US, wonders if her two kitties might be also Khao Manee. They are pure white with beautiful odd eyes. At first she thought they were part siamese - their faces look like that from some angles and they are also very smart and talkative.

If they are Khao Manees were could they have come from? They weren't picked up on the street but were rescues. They came from a crazy lady with 170 dead cats in her home and few surviving. She's in jail now and it is not possible to ask her. Her name is Lauri Lockwood and she worked for several rescue organizations. They found around 170 dead cats in her home in Alpharetta. They mostly starved to death or died of dehydration. They were just everywhere - bedroom, living room. She didn't even bury them. Cans and bags of food were there as well, she just didn't feed them. She evidently had some mental illness.

The Atlanta Jounal Constitution describes the case as follows:

The gruesome discovery of nearly 200 dead cats in an Alpharetta house has sent chilling questions through a neighborhood, the animal-rescue community and state regulators.

What could have gone so wrong with a system and an individual that allowed someone to keep bringing cats into her home, where eventually 179 of them were found dead and 26 alive?

Lauri Lockwood, 45, has cared for cats for years at her home to spare their lives when their time was up at shelters. But few people who know her will talk publicly following the disturbing events of Feb. 1 at her home on Alstonefield Drive.

Her former boyfriend, Steven Hall of Alpharetta, found the dead cats. He said he thinks he knows what led to the tragedy, but he's not saying. Hall said he and Lockwood dated until six years ago and have kept in touch.

Lockwood has adopted out thousands of cats through the years.

"She is not an animal hater," Hall said.

"I've seen her almost get in fights with people who want to adopt a cat and want to get it declawed."

He told police he entered the house with a key and saw several dead cats. He took some surviving cats to veterinarian Joanne Roesner, who called police.

"The difference in this one is the number of dead animals," said David Smith, Fulton County Animal Shelter executive director, who helped round up surviving cats and collect evidence.

The house was sealed Feb. 5 by Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness Director Steven Katkowsky.

After law enforcement authorities had gathered evidence and sent it to a lab, the health department paid a company to remove the cat carcasses at a cost of $4,475, Katkowsky said.

To be made habitable, Lockwood's house will have to be cleaned and sanitized, "at the very least," he said.

Lab results due this week should provide information the district attorney needs to decide what, if any, charges to bring against Lockwood. Those charges probably will be lodged in a "direct indictment," according to spokesman Erik Friedly.

Police will not say whether they know where Lockwood is, only that they believe they can find her.

A woman who answered her phone last week declined to speak with a reporter.

The state Department of Agriculture also is investigating, according to Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

And, a license renewal application from an Alpharetta rescue organization with which Lockwood volunteered, Cats in the Cradle, has become the department's "top priority," Irvin said.

An issue of trust

The Agriculture Department licenses rescue groups, which must then inspect foster care sites. Irvin said Cats in the Cradle's license expired Jan. 31.

"We're so thin on inspectors we don't have enough to do what we need to do," Irvin said, "but I expect we'll give this top priority."

No complaints had been received about the organization until Feb. 1, the day the cats were found, Irvin said.

Cats in the Cradle has arrangements for cat adoptions on Saturdays and weekdays by appointment at PetsMart stores in Alpharetta, Roswell and Cumming.

Its director, Lynda Brinkley, did not return phone calls. A message at the organization's main number said no more cats were being accepted in February because of funerals and vacations.

Brinkley has posted an open letter on the Internet to the animal-rescue community that said she had no reason not to trust Lockwood.

"The accused was well-respected in the rescue community and had volunteered with other rescue groups over a period of many years," the letter reads.

Brinkley also wrote that all foster care providers associated with Cats in the Cradle had passed a DOA inspection since Feb. 1. Irvin said such inspections are not the responsibility of the agency, but might have been conducted by Cats in the Cradle.

The sheer number of dead animals astonished Smith, who said he once appeared on an Animal Planet TV program when 85 dead cats were found in Houston.

This is the worst case he's ever seen, with live cats in cages and decomposing cat carcasses lying throughout the two-story house.

Evidence was collected, photographed and videotaped for four days.

"There were Hefty bags --- just mounds and mounds of bags everywhere in the house. Some [cats] had been there so long, it was hard to tell if it was a cat, not just a ball of fur," Smith said.

"And the smell, as you could imagine, was horrendous."

Evidence, then home

The 26 cats found alive in the house must be kept temporarily accessible in case they are needed as evidence in any trial, Smith said. After that, they can be adopted at the county's shelter.

Veterinary bills will strain the county department's budget, according to Susan Feingold, shelter assistant director.

Donations may be made through the Web site

Rescue organizations have been instrumental in reducing the kill rate at the Fulton County Animal Shelter, Smith said. He hopes the horror story won't cause a backlash.

"It's like anything else," he said. "Occasionally you're going to get a bad apple. They're a valuable resource and, for the most part, they do a wonderful job. I hate to see them portrayed as a bunch of crazy cat ladies."


PETA took action against Lockwood as described below:

For Immediate Release:
February 15, 2005

Daniel Paden 757-622-7382

Alpharetta, Ga. --- This morning, PETA sent an urgent plea to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr., urging him to appropriately prosecute Lauri Lockwood of Alpharetta. Charges of cruelty to animals against Lockwood are pending following authorities' reported discovery earlier this month of the rotting remains of 179 cats--as well as 26 neglected survivors--inside her filthy home. "We basically found a house of horrors," one county animal services representative told news sources. "We kept finding more and more and more as we dug through," said another. The dead animals are suspected to have succumbed to starvation and dehydration, and the survivors required extensive veterinary treatment.

Because Lockwood may be an "animal hoarder"--someone who obsessively accumulates animals--PETA is requesting that, if convicted, she be prohibited from owning or harboring animals and required to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation followed by counseling.

"Lockwood appears to be either unable or unwilling to provide the most basic care to animals," says PETA Cruelty Caseworker Daniel Paden. "Experts agree that dementia and other mental-health disorders may be at play in many hoarding cases and that upon conviction, only carefully considered sentencing and probationary conditions can preclude the otherwise inevitable recurrence of these crimes."

For more information about animal hoarding, please visit

PETA's letter to District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. follows.

February 15, 2005

The Honorable Paul Howard Jr.
Fulton County District Attorney
136 Pryor St. S.W., 3rd Fl.
Atlanta, GA 30303

Dear Mr. Howard:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the world's largest animal rights organization, with more than 800,000 members and supporters dedicated to animal protection. This letter concerns a recent case of cruelty to animals that your office is reviewing, involving Lauri Lockwood, age unreported, of Alpharetta. Felony charges against Lockwood are said to be pending following authorities' reported discovery earlier this month of the rotting remains of 179 cats--as well as 26 neglected survivors--inside her filthy Alstonefield Drive home, which was later condemned. According to news sources, the dead, who had apparently succumbed to starvation and dehydration, were found in garbage bags and various animal carriers. Some of the rescued animals are said to have required extensive veterinary treatment upon their rescue.

We believe that Lockwood may be an animal hoarder. As you may know, the "hoarder syndrome" is not rare. Experts agree that dementia and other mental-health disorders may be at play in such cases and that upon conviction, only carefully considered sentencing and probationary conditions can preclude the otherwise inevitable recurrence of these crimes. I am sending to your office materials that further detail this syndrome and the correlation between cruelty to animals and other forms of violence.

Veterinarian Karen Kemper, who has studied animal addicts extensively, has found that their behavior parallels that of substance abusers in the following ways: preoccupation with the addiction, repetition of the addictive behavior, alibis for their behavior, neglect of personal and environmental conditions, claims of persecution, the presence of enablers who assist financially, denial that the addiction exists, isolation from the rest of society except for those who also deal in the addiction, and abuse of animals through neglect.

On behalf of our thousands of members and supporters in Georgia, we respectfully ask that your office file appropriate charges against Lauri Lockwood and that, if convicted, she be required to undergo a psychological evaluation per ?16-12-4(d) of Georgia State Code followed by mandatory counseling at her own expense--her safety may depend on it. Because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers--and this is especially true of hoarders--we also ask that your office ensure that Lockwood is barred from owning or harboring animals in the future, that any animals currently in her custody are immediately seized, and that all animal shelters and rescue agencies in Fulton County are notified of this case's disposition.

Thank you for your diligence in this matter and for your time and consideration. Do not hesitate to contact me at 757-622-7382 if you have any questions or if our office can be of assistance.


Daniel Paden, Cruelty Caseworker
Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department