Florida Keys

He searched for a shelter for his 40 sick cats. Then, he was arrested


A Homestead man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after showing up at a Marathon animal shelter in February with 40 cats soaked in their own urine and feces and suffering from horrid conditions, the Monroe County State Attorney's Office said.

Patrick Franey, 61, was arrested May 23 on 36 counts of animal cruelty and four counts of aggravated cruelty — one for each cat that had to be euthanized for medical ailments.

Franey kept his collection of cats confined to a small space without maintaining or providing enough litter boxes and had neglected the whole lot, authorities said. He said the cats were strays he'd picked up from the street.

The cats were found with various ills: open wounds, infected wounds, pneumonia, respiratory infections, lice, mange and scabies.

All were emaciated, poorly fed and scratching or shaking when they arrived at the Florida Keys SPCA, investigators said.

Seven cats in all had to be euthanized, three for aggression from a lack of human contact. Only a handful did not need medical attention.

Franey tried first to surrender the cats in Miami-Dade but was afraid they would all be put down. Then he, his roommate and neighbor tried the Key Largo shelter, where they were turned away.

The next stop for the two pickup trucks filled with cats in what one veterinarian called deplorable conditions, including food trays mixed with feces, was the Marathon shelter, 10550 Aviation Blvd. The cats had traveled for more than 78 miles over several hours, either being exposed to the elements or in Franey's covered pickup, which provided no ventilation.

"None of the cages had any fresh water or food available for the cats to consume," according to the arrest affidavit.

Dr. Kyle Maddox, a Marathon vet, described the smell as unbelievable and that it lingered for days at Keys Animal Hospital.

The Florida Keys SPCA called the State Attorney's Office in Marathon after receiving the cats at 5 p.m. Feb. 27.

Someone had called two hours earlier saying they were surrendering some cats because he had been evicted and had nowhere to go with them.

Franey's neighbor who helped him transport the cats to the shelter, Yosiel Rodriguez Tapanes, said when Franey and his roommate, Donna Farquharson, moved out of their room they dragged out all their furniture to the curb. The discarded items smelled so strongly of feces and urine that it made the entire block stink until garbage collectors hauled it away.

An arrest warrant was issued in April for Farquharson's arrest.

Rodriguez admitted he used his brother's water bill from a Marathon home as proof of residence in the city so they could give up the cats at the SPCA.

As of Thursday, five of the cats had been adopted, said State Attorney's Office spokesman Larry Kahn, leaving 28 at the shelter. To adopt a cat, call the shelter at 305-743-4800.