A mother and son in Mitchell were arrested Thursday after 31 cats were recovered from two residences.
Brandy Smith, 44, and Michael Smith, 19, each face 10 counts of cruelty to animals, a Class 6 felony, officials said Friday afternoon.
Mitchell police executed search warrants on 1401 S. Main St. No. 104 and 200 E. Fifth Ave. No. 139 as part of an animal welfare investigation, assisted by humane officers from the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society.
Twenty cats "in various apparent degrees of sickness" were found in the Main Street residence, and one additional sick cat was seized from the East Fifth Avenue residence. One cat that appeared near death when rescued was taken to a Mitchell veterinarian for treatment, and 20 were taken to the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society.
On Friday, nine additional sick cats and one dead cat were recovered from the Main Street residence, according to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.
It took multiple hours to remove the cats that were recovered, and authorities believe additional cats are hiding in the walls and elsewhere in the Main Street residence. Both residences reportedly had cat feces and garbage throughout.
A notice prohibiting occupancy, signed by Code Enforcement Officer Wade London, has been posted in the Main Street residence's window. London was unavailable Friday to comment on the conditions of the residence.
Police began to investigate about three weeks ago after neighbors made complaints about the odor of urine and feces coming from 1401 S. Main St. No. 104, where stray cats were seen in the yard. Brandy Smith reportedly either lived in or maintained the two residences, and she reportedly solicited money to care for cats on a Facebook page called "Heart and Soul Kitty Sanctuary."
According to court documents, Mitchell's animal control officer went to one of the residences on June 24 and found a dead, partially decomposed cat outside. Humane Society officers reportedly said the amount of feces in the trailer Thursday indicated the cats had been in that environment for a long period of time, and conditions were making them sick.
The odor in the trailer was reportedly so strong that officers could smell it through the respirators they wore while recovering the animals.
Brandy Smith reportedly told police that she had not been to the trailers in over a month and that though her son had been responsible for the animals, she was aware that there was a significant amount of feces and urine and that there were no litter boxes in the trailer on Main Street
Michael Smith was allegedly aware of the cats' living conditions and gave them food and water. The rescue operation is ongoing, and additional criminal charges may be filed. Police were assisted by the Davison County Office of Emergency Management and the Mitchell Fire Division.
If convicted of all charges currently brought against them, Brandy and Michael Smith could each be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. As of Friday afternoon, both were being held on $5,000 cash bonds.