FARGO — The owner of a minivan police pulled 31 cats from in downtown Fargo on Thursday afternoon, July 11, says she feels persecuted by law enforcement and wants to bring charges against the officers who took the cats out of her vehicle.
"They have been harassing me for several months," said Tamara Fisher, who was appearing in Fargo City Municipal Court for earlier infractions stemming from animal welfare calls when police got a call about cats left in a van in 80-degree heat.
Fisher, who has faced citations all around the metro area including Moorhead, Dilworth and Fargo, said she's trying to protect the cats.
"They forced me to have them, and I love them very much and I am not going to put them in full shelters where they could be euthanized," she said.
Law enforcement officials tell a much different story, describing the cats as panting, distressed and in danger of dying from the heat. A powerful scent of cat urine could be noticed outside the van, which was in the parking lot of Romantix, 417 NP Ave.
After getting approval from Fargo police, community service officers entered the vehicle through a back window covered in cardboard.
"I can't describe how it smelled. We were dripping in sweat . . . our goal was to get those cats out as fast as we could," said community service officer LaVerne Aventi.
There were so many cats that officers on scene said they lost track of the number during the two hours they worked to remove them.
As officers removed cats from the van, Fisher walked up to the van, visibly upset. Officers detained her as the rest of the cats were removed. Fisher says law enforcement has forced her into her situation, living out of a van.
"They set me up yesterday," she said. "The cops blocked me off, just blocked me off, and I was arguing with them that these people won't stop harassing me. they won't leave me alone, they have been following me all over the place."
It's not the first run-in Fisher has had with law enforcement for issues related to her cats. A number of sources said she was found with 50 cats in a motel room where she was living before moving them to her van in the parking lot.
The cats are now being cared for at a safe, undisclosed location. Police are asking the public to not call shelters or law enforcement asking to adopt or inquire about the cats.
Police and animal shelters say they will eventually determine how to get the cats into new homes.
An earlier version of this story stated the cats were moved to a van at Romantix. The van was in the motel parking lot at the time.