Persian Breeder Charged for Trying to Drown Cats: Advocates Mount Campaign

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An animal abandonment and abuse case that began at the Willamette River in Springfield, Oregon on the night of Friday November 30 has brought criminal charges against a well known Persian cat breeder and a campaign by local animal lovers to rescue the 60 cats the woman has at her home, and to discredit her business to the point of shutting it down.

Kelsey Higgs was out walking her dog when she spotted a garbage bag in the river, heard meows, and called police. Kelsey also says she is an eyewitness to a woman in a red minivan dumping the bag.

The river was high and rushing that night and, luckily, one of the four police officers responding, who came even though he was off duty, is an avid fisherman who was able to wade out without being swept away. Also lucky for the officers and for two Calico Persian cats, the bag got snagged on a branch, allowing the officers to grab it and save the cats inside. The rescue took place quickly enough that the cats were not seriously harmed by the experience, other than being scared. Animal Control says the cats had had been neglected before they were dumped.

Betty Gould

Given the specialty breed of the dumped cats, Brian Austin, Springfield Animal control Officer, directed his investigation to a well known local Persian cat breeder named Betty Gould, a woman his office had gotten many complaints about over the years. People who had been reassured by a nice woman that she treated her cats as pets and maintained the highest standards for their health made complaints after purchase that the cats were sick. Many died or had to be put down. While animal control was not able to act in the civil complaints, the complaints helped give animal control background information on Ms. Gould and her Snowbunnies Persians breeding business.

Donna Barnett-Landers wrote at the KEZI 9 News Facebook page in recent days: “We purchased a kitten from her [Gould] a couple of years ago and later had to put it to sleep ,it was sick forgot what it was called but it passed through mom to kittens our vet said the breeder had to have know of the illness and that we should call and talk to her. We called her and she was not nice about it and said her cats were not the cause of this. She refused to return our vets calls etc.. A few day later we found out she was still selling the kittens from that litter all of which had to be put to sleep. It was all about the money. She seemed so nice and caring towards the kitten we purchased, should have known something was up because of where we meet her, “at the beauty salon”. She should be put in a garbage sack and thrown into the river.. She how she likes it. I hate people who abuse helpless animals……….”

Officer Austin was able to match the two rescued cats, who are described as closely bonded sisters, to two cats listed at the Snowbunnies website. A woman who said she had almost adopted one of the cats from Gould visited Officer Austin and made a positive identification of the animal. Unless Ms. Gould is able to come up with a believable story for how her cats ended up in the river, it does not look promising for her to be able to convincingly place blame elsewhere.

Officer Austin does not mince words as he speaks about Ms. Gould and the outcome for her if she is found guilty, in a video report below.

Ms, Gould was arrested on Monday, December 3, and was arraigned on charges of Aggravated Animal Abuse and Abandonment. Bail was initially set at $4,500, then was lowered to $1,500. Someone paid the $1,5oo, and Gould was released on Friday, December 7.

There is an active investigation of past incidents where people have found abandoned Persian cats, including at least one rescued from the river.  Animal Control visited Gould’s home but left the 60 cats they found in the home for the time being, saying they appeared to be well cared for.

KEZI 9 News has covered the story in depth, and reported when animal lovers protested outside of Gould’s Hair by Betty hairstyling salon last Saturday. Gould was inside the salon but declined to speak with KEZI.

We were contacted today by one of the protesters, Ellen Kaplan, a member of  West Coast Dog and Cat Rescue, whose Facebook page is taking an activist stance on Gould and the case. The activists have also started a Facebook group, Concerned citizens against Betty Gould!. One of their aims is to influence Cat Fancy magazine to drop Snowbunnies Persians from their cattery listings. They consider Gould guilty and hope to let others know of the charges and accusations against her.



 Below is a selection of reports from KEZI that follow coverage of the case from the beginning through Saturday’s protest.

Published on Dec 3, 2012

The initial discussion of the case. Animal Control’s Brian Austin talks about how he pursued the investigation and ID’d the cats.


Published on Dec 4, 2012

The arraignment, and eyewitness Kelsey Higgs talks about the night of the dumping and rescue.


Published on Dec 5, 2012

A report focusing on potential related cases: Springfield police are looking into other tips about similar dumping cases, with similar suspect descriptions, over the past year.


Published on Dec 8, 2012

Saturday’s protest: Protestors stood outside Betty Gould’s Springfield Salon, “Hair by Betty”, holding signs. They say they hope the nearly 60 cats currently in her home will be taken away from her.


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