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Couple in Spring cat seizure to appeal court decision

November 13, 2018

The saga of a Spring couple ordered to surrender their more than 200 cats by a Montgomery County judge continued Tuesday as David and Faye Spencer appealed the decision.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Edie Connelly on Oct. 31 ordered the Spencers to surrender their 231 cats to the Houston SPCA after an investigation found that several of the animals were in bad health. Connelly also ordered the couple to pay the more than $52,000 incurred in court fees and veterinarian bills by the Houtson SPCA over the two weeks between the seizure and Connelly’s ruling.

In order to appeal the ruling, the couple was required to put up twice the amount the court held them responsible for — more than $104,000 — as bond.

The Spencers on Tuesday argued that they were unable to pay the amount and presented documentation to that effect in a closed session with Connelly, Montgomery County Assistant County Attorney Ronald Chin and several HSPCA animal cruelty investigators.

The documents turned over on Tuesday included court documents stating their only income came from social security and disability benefits and listing their only asset of value to be a $40,000 Ford truck.

But, Chin said, the documents submitted to the court by the couple appear to possibly misrepresent the financial situation of the Spencers — as well as, he claimed, show that they are potentially unable to financially care for the 231 cats.

“I just don’t think they’re disclosing everything,” Chin alleged. “If anyone has worked for a long time, they have a 401K or even a pension.”

The couple alleges that they cared for the cats with the help of donations made through a non-profit organization called Dave and Faye’s Cat Sanctuary, a registered Texas domestic corporation founded in June 2017, according to state records. Connelly gave the couple until Nov. 20 to submit financial documentation on the non-profit — the exact tax-exemption status of the organization, as well as how much money they’ve raised through it, is unclear.

The couple maintains a website and Facebook page for their sanctuary, which has a link to a Paypal donation site that states it is managed in conjuction with WoodForest Bank. There was also a GoFundMe page set up for the couple, which showed several hundreds of dollars in donations from 15 donors.

“I just want them to show the court and state how they’ve been doing it,” Chin said of the financial documents requested by officials.

For the Spencers, the investigation and subsequent seizure of their 231 cats is, in their opinion, a witch hunt.

“Nobody seems to want to know the truth,” David Spencer said.

HSPCA and Montgomery County Animal Control officials at the initial hearing on Oct. 24 testified to finding the Spencers’ home in disarray when they arrived to investigate animal cruelty claims on Oct. 16.

After receiving continued complaints from neighbors, officials found several of the cats suffering from skin conditions, emaciation, fleas and diarrhea. After an initial examination by HSPCA veterinarians, all 231 cats showed signs of upper respiratory infections and one was humanely euthanized due to its condition.

A cruelty investigator with the HSPCA declined to comment on the current state of the cats Tuesday, citing the ongoing court case.

Character witnesses brought in to the Oct. 24 hearing told Connelly of a caring couple dedicated to the excellent care of the cats, never adopting them out.

“We love these cats,” Spencer said. “This has been our life. I miss them every single day.”

Connelly is scheduled to rule on the appeal on Nov. 26.

mrincon@chron.com

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