12/12/2013 11:21 EST | Updated 02/11/2014 05:59 EST

125 cats, 1 dog seized from Winnipeg house

Animal protection officers have removed 125 cats and a dog from a house in Winnipeg's Wolseley neighbourhood, in what's considered one of the largest seizure of cats from a single house in the city.

Crate by crate, officers carried dozens of cats from the house in the 200 block of Evanson Street on Thursday evening, in response to a request from police to help investigate a case of animal cruelty.

A strong stench of ammonia followed the cats as they were taken out of the house in crates and pet carriers.

A woman who was in the home at the time has been charged with uttering threats against the workers, according to city police.

Area residents told CBC News that the woman has a history of mental illness.

Colleen Marion, a companion-animal welfare veterinarian with Manitoba's chief veterinary office, said on Friday that many of the cats were in bad shape with ear and eye infections, along with various intestinal problems.

Provincial veterinary officials would not say where the cats are currently located.

Marion said no cats have been euthanized to date, but officials are still assessing the animals' health.

The owner of the cats has seven days to voluntarily give up ownership of the animals or appeal the seizure, according to the province. Otherwise, officials will look to shelters to help get the felines adopted.

Animal control officer started 'gagging'

Animal protection officers were first called to the house on Dec. 2, after police informed them about what was going on inside.

Trena Taylor, who lives across the street, said she saw animal protection officers at the house about a week and a half ago.

"They had masks on, they had booties over their boots … and they were going in and out of the house," she said Friday.

"I actually saw one officer start gagging; I thought he was going to throw up."

The officers found the house to be unsanitary, so five cats and one dog were removed. The officers returned on Thursday with a warrant under the Animal Care Act to seize the remaining 120 cats.

Marion said the animals were being confined in an area that was deemed to be unsanitary. She said the smell of ammonia in these cases can be difficult even for animal control officers.

"It will cause our eyes to sting or burn, and water," she said. "It can make it difficult for us to breathe in the sense that it causes our throat and our lungs to burn and it makes us short of breath." 

Quinn Greene, who lives nearby, said he had no idea prior to Thursday's seizure of what was going on inside his neighbour's home.

"I can't even imagine what it smells like in there, but I can imagine that it's a terrible environment for the pets, and I can't imagine it would be a great environment for the people, either," he said.

"I think some people would consider that they love those animals, and that they feel those animals are important to them, and it's part of their family," he added.

"But at that point it's just an obsession, I think."