Over the years, Karen Schultz and her late husband Glenn turned their semi- agricultural Aurora property into an award-winning day lily garden.
Their other passion was cats. The Schultzes were the first residents in town to have a cat fancier permit and they cared for up to 80 licensed cats at a time. The cats came from the streets or other shelters.
Now those cats are in trouble and need help, but more on that later.
In 2010, Glenn Schultz suffered a perforated bowel and died. His wife, who some in the community knew as Aurora's Cat Lady, carried on alone until 2012. That's when Karen, then 71, had both knees replaced, followed by two spinal surgeries in 2013. She was in rehab for weeks at a time.
In February, she slipped on ice and broke a leg and had to go back to rehab for long stretches. She arranged for someone to care for the cats, but their condition deteriotated.
Jackie Ehmann, interim manager of the Aurora Animal Shelter, picks up the story.
"The state office of PACFA (Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act, which had granted a state license for the Schulzes to keep the cats) wanted to do an inspection. They wanted us to go with them," Ehmann said.
"Someone the owner hired let us in. Our city vet determined many cats needed medical care. When we first showed up cats were in varying conditions - upper respiratory problems, infections in the mouth, skin issues. The owner was compliant and agreed to surrender the cats to the city's shelter." This was in mid March.
Meanwhile, an unnamed city official let Aurora animal rights attorney Juliet Piccone know of Karen Schultz's situation and Piccone agreed to help her in negotiations with Aurora Animal Control.
"We revoked her fancier's permit and PACFA revoked their permit," Ehmann continued. "Our agreement was that if (Schultz) could get her house back in order and demonstrate she could take care of cats, she could keep five of the cats (the normal city limit). But first we would take all the cats to a place she selected for treatment."
Schultz chose Almost Home Adoptions, a Westminster facilty for rescued cats.
"We did not have to go to court," Ehmann said. "She had been very compliant."
The deal done, the parties have turned their attention to costs.
"Karen needs to raise funds to be able to have her home professionally cleaned and de-cluttered," Piccone said. "Donations in any amount are appreciated and donations of materials to repair the house to enable it to pass inspection so Karen and her five cats can return are also welcome.
"Please see the facebook page Save the Aurora Cat Lady’s Garden Cats (www.youcaring.com/pet- expenses/save-the-aurora-cat-lady-s-garden-cats/155766) for more information on how to help."
Cost is also a big issue for Almost Home Adoptions. Founder and Director Kathleen Cline said the cost to treat the cats will be between $20,000 and $30,000.
"All 46 were in really bad shape." Cline said. "They need dental work. They were emaciated." She said one eight-year-old cat was so dehydrated it weighed three pounds. "These cats are the victims."
There is a lingering dispute over the five cats Schultz is supposed to get back. Piccone wants to transfer them to another rescue, but Cline said she intends to keep them until they are fully recovered.
Meanwhile, Cline asked for public help to cover the cost of bringing the cats back to health. For information: (www.almosthomeadoptions.com) or 303 432-2299.
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