Friday, July 31, 2009

Alleged animal hoarder believed back in Findlay


A woman who lived with dozens of cats and rabbits in a Findlay garage last year has been posing as a member of a local dog adoption agency and soliciting donations, according to a police report.

Valerie Serafin, 68, has been calling herself a member of Teddy's Rescue, an agency that finds homes for unwanted dogs, according to the report.

Teddy's Rescue members, concerned they are being misrepresented, said they might seek a restraining order against her.

Meanwhile, Serafin's return to Findlay has caught law enforcement's attention.

Last September, authorities found Serafin living in a garage on South Blanchard Street with hoards of cats and rabbits and no running water.

But she disappeared, animals in tow, before the Humane Society could seize her malnourished cats and police could charge her with animal cruelty.

She was not seen in Findlay for several months.

On June 12, Serafin allegedly went to Jack's Aquarium and Pets on Trenton Avenue and asked for donations as a member of Teddy's Rescue, records show.

Serafin visited at least two other times before that seeking donations, said Jim Augustine, the store manager. She usually gathered a few bags of dog food, Augustine said.

But Serafin is harming Teddy's Rescue's reputation, said Susan Hollington, the group's vice president, and she is not giving the donations to Teddy's.

"We don't agree with her philosophy; we can't have her representing us," Hollington said. "She thinks one person can have 300 animals and take care of them."

Dana Berger, an agent with the Humane Society, suspects Serafin might be hoarding animals again.

Berger said he has received phone calls from people who have spotted Serafin "collecting cats" in parking lots on Tiffin Avenue, Berger said.

"I believe she is an animal hoarder," Berger said. "She takes in strays and she thinks she's helping them and that's where the problem lies. She thinks she's helping and she's not."

After fleeing Findlay with her animals last September, Serafin went to Hardin County.

A few weeks later the Wyandot County Humane Society, which serves Hardin County, seized Serafin's animals -- 20 cats, five rabbits and one chicken.

The majority of them had to be euthanized because they were so ill, said Linda Balz, director of the Wyandot County Humane Society.

Serafin disappeared after her animals were taken and charges against her were dismissed soon after, records show.

But the charges could be refiled should Hardin County law enforcement encounter Serafin again, said Hardin County assistant law director Jason Miller.

"I don't want Ms. Serafin to get off scot-free on this, that's for sure," Miller said.

He said he would advise the sheriff's office to track down Serafin, but acknowledged deputies have other priorities.

Berger cannot charge Serafin with animal cruelty unless he can find out where she is living and prove she is hoarding animals and not caring for them properly, he said.

Her transient lifestyle makes that difficult, Berger said.

"You really got to give her credit for her sharpness," he said.

Findlay police think Serafin might be living out of a white Oldsmobile, according to the police report..." Link