COLUMBIA, MO. -- Cats at motel since early ’09 Kohler paid for room damage. Photo by Joshua A. Bickel | Buy this photo Molly Aust, Animal Control supervisor, comforts a cat after it was removed from the room of Susan Kohler at Motel 6, 3402 I-70 Drive S.E. After the cats were removed from the room, employees came forward to say Kohler had been keeping animals there for more than a year. By Daniel Cailler Thursday, July 1, 2010 Advertisement Correction appended The woman charged with multiple infractions after Animal Control found 28 cats in her room at a Motel 6 had been keeping cats in the room for 16 months before the situation was discovered June 16. Document Motel 6 agreement Download .PDF Document Email Download .PDF Document Kohler letter Download .PDF Related blog entry Word on the Streets: A plethora of pussycats Susan Kohler, 52, pleaded not guilty last week to charges of having too many animals, animal abuse, no vaccinations and unsanitary living conditions. After receiving a complaint last month, Animal Control found 28 cats in Room 328 of the Motel 6 at 3402 I-70 Drive S.E. Four dead kittens were also found in a freezer in the room. Molly Aust, Animal Control supervisor, said at the time of the discovery that it appeared Kohler had been keeping cats in the room since at least March. Several motel employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity, later came forward with evidence that the situation had been going on much longer. One employee shared with the Tribune a signed letter from Kohler to the motel’s operator, Yogi Krupa Inc., dated Feb. 3, 2009. Yogi Krupa is a franchisee of Motel 6. The letter says Kohler had been staying in Room 328 for several weeks, requested limited housekeeping and had “several pets staying with me every night.” The letter says the room was in good condition when she moved in, and she would pay for any damage to the property. An agreement dated July 29, 2009, and signed by Kohler and Vinod Gandhi, president of Yogi Krupa, says Kohler’s “long-term stay at this property has caused an inconvenience to Motel 6 and its guests staying on the third floor.” It says several guests had complained to hotel management about a foul odor on the floor, and Kohler agreed to pay for cleaning the room. The agreement also says Kohler agreed to not keep more than two cats in the room. Laura Rojo-Eddy, director of corporate communications for Accor Hotels, owner of the Motel 6 chain, said Room 328 has been gutted and will be used as a storage room. She said the corporation did not know about the agreements signed by Kohler and the motel’s local owners. “As far as we knew, this is something that got out of hand very quickly,” she said. “This definitely sounds like something we need to investigate to find more info on.” Most of the cats that were seized from the room were Oriental shorthairs. Aust said Kohler had a signed contract — dated May 8, 2009 — with a Cat Fanciers’ Association breeder to purchase cats. “She admitted in the contracts that she was buying them to breed and produce offspring,” Aust said. Alan Allert, executive director of the Central Missouri Humane Society, said most of the cats were not spayed or neutered and a couple were pregnant. Motel Manager Jay Gandhi, son of Vinod Gandhi, said Kohler let him know she was keeping a few pets. “She never had anything that was an outrageous number until towards the end,” he said. “That was something that happened fairly recently.” A motel housekeeper said motel management knew of the situation and tried to keep it under control. She said when she and other housekeepers refused to clean the room, the maintenance man took over, mopping and shampooing regularly. She said at one point Kohler’s cats were moved to Room 332 while the carpet in Room 328 was removed to help control the smell. Aust confirmed there was no carpeting in Room 328 during her visit last month. The floor was concealed with a tarp covered in urine and feces. Local hotels are inspected annually by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services under contractual agreement with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Gerald Worley, environmental health manager for the health department, said typically 15 percent of the rooms at a hotel are randomly selected for inspection. The most recent inspection at the motel was on June 16, 2009, he said, adding that neither room 328 nor 322 was among those chosen. However, rooms 317, 318 and 319 were inspected. Worley said the inspector did not report any odors at that time. “If we had in an inspection and saw what Animal Control saw when they were there, that would not be a condition that would be ignored,” Worley said. It is not a situation employees of the Motel 6 are ignoring either. “Our focus is the hotel making customers and employees go into unsanitary conditions,” one employee said. “It is a disturbing situation for any guest staying there.” This page has been revised to reflect the following correction: SECOND THOUGHTS: Friday July 2, 2010 A story yesterday about Susan Kohler's cats at Motel 6 contained incorrect information. Kohler's cats were moved to Room 332, not Room 322, while the carpet was being removed from Room 328. None of the three rooms was inspected during the motel's latest inspection. Reach Daniel Cailler at 573-815-1717 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was published on page A10 of the Thursday, July 1, 2010 edition of The Columbia
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