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Dozens of cats rescued from South Side Chicago house, woman arrested

Woman charged after dozens of cats are removed from Chicago home
Woman charged after dozens of cats are removed from Chicago home 02:01

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An animal rescue mission was under way Wednesday at a house in the South Side's Auburn Gresham neighborhood, after a woman living there was arrested and charged with violating her animal owner duties.

Police said just before noon Tuesday, 26 cats were rescued by Chicago Animal Care and Control from a bungalow in the 7700 block of South Hermitage Avenue. At least three more cats were rescued from the house on Wednesday, and were seen being taken out in cages.

A truck filled with old furniture – the home's contents – sat outside.

"No rescuers, nobody in rescue, Animal Control – nobody has been able to get into the house and access to see these animals," said Janice Cohl.

"Our whole goal is to help these animals - and we put them in the hands of a monster," said Janice Cohl.

Cohl was initially told Ashley Burrell, 37, rescued cats too – and brought them to the house on Hermitage Avenue, which she rented.

"She contacts me constantly asking for money, and I told her, 'I'm not giving you any more money,'" Cohl said, "but this is after hundreds of dollars."

Cohl claimed she and others donated cash, cat food, and other items to keep Burrell's mission afloat.

"Every time she came to my house, it was $100 cash, always," Cohl said.

 Burrell had been operating under the business name "Nikki's Ferals."

Chicago woman charged after dozens of cats are found neglected 02:32

"I started getting suspicious when she picked up a cat for me that was perfectly healthy - and all of a sudden, it disappeared," said Cohl, "and I told her, 'Where is the cat?' And she said, 'Oh, it had to be euthanized,' out of the blue."

Cohl is also now skeptical that the dollars donated to Burrell were being put toward care for the animals.

"There would be vet records to show that she was taking care of the animals and spending the money, but there are numerous people who have asked for vet records with receipts - or have offered to donate to the veterinarians directly, which is a safe way to do it," said Cohl, "and she was never able to give us a contact number to do that."

Cohl and others went on to file numerous complaints against Burrell. On Tuesday, Chicago Police took Burrell into custody.

She stands charged with a misdemeanor count of violating her animal owner duties.

"She should be confined to hell, like those animals were in her house," said Cohl.

As of late Wednesday, the misdemeanor charge of violating animal owner duties was the only one Burrell was facing. It was not clear late Wednesday whether she would face additional charges.

Chicago Animal Care and Control could not comment on specifics of the case, but did say it was an "ongoing criminal matter."

CBS 2 tried reaching Burrell for comment, but had not been able to get in touch with her as of late Wednesday.

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