MITCHELL, S.D. — A mother and son in Mitchell were arrested Thursday, July 11, after 31 cats were recovered from two residences.
Brandy Smith, 44, and Michael Smith, 19, each face 10 counts of cruelty to animals, a Class 6 felony, officials said Friday afternoon.
Mitchell police executed search warrants on 1401 S. Main St. No. 104 and 200 E. Fifth Ave. No. 139 as part of an animal welfare investigation, assisted by humane officers from the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society.
Twenty cats "in various apparent degrees of sickness" were found in the Main Street residence, and one additional sick cat was seized from the East Fifth Avenue residence. One cat that appeared near death when rescued was taken to a Mitchell veterinarian for treatment, and 20 were taken to the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society.
On Friday, nine additional sick cats and one dead cat were recovered from the Main Street residence, according to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.
It took multiple hours to remove the cats that were recovered, and authorities believe additional cats are hiding in the walls and elsewhere in the Main Street residence. Both residences reportedly had cat feces and garbage throughout.
A notice prohibiting occupancy, signed by Code Enforcement Officer Wade London, has been posted in the Main Street residence's window. London was unavailable Friday to comment on the conditions of the residence.
Police began to investigate after neighbors made complaints about the odor of urine and feces coming from 1401 S. Main St. No. 104, where stray cats were seen in the yard. Brandy Smith reportedly either lived in or maintained the two residences, and she reportedly solicited money to care for cats on a Facebook page called "Heart and Soul Kitty Sanctuary."
Michael Smith was allegedly aware of the cats' living conditions and gave them food and water. The rescue operation is ongoing, and additional criminal charges may be filed.
Cruelty to animals is a Class 6 felony. If convicted of all charges currently brought against them, Brandy and Michael Smith could each be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.