SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A trip to the park, to catch the sight of the swelling river, turned into a different outing entirely on Friday evening. Witnesses say a woman got out of a red minivan near Island Park and threw a plastic bag into the Willamette River.
“The bag was making noises, there were some meows coming out of the bag,” said Brian Austin, Springfield Police Animal Control officer.
Four officers responded immediately, including an off-duty officer that went into the river to save the cats.
“Right there at Island Park the river is extremely swift and luckily there were a couple good sized trees, the bag somehow got caught on them and we were able to retrieve it off the tree,” Austin said. “It’s a very life and death sort of situation, getting into a raging river like that, but the off-duty officer was not in uniform and was actually volunteering to go in and do it on his own, so he’s the one who kind of made it all happen for us.”
The cats are scared, but safe and cozy.
“They’re very friendly, I think that they’ve suffered from a lot of neglect,” said Austin.
The cats are Calico Himalayans, a Persian breed that tipped off investigators and community members pretty quickly.
Officers arrested Betty Gould Monday afternoon; they say she is well known for alleged animal neglect.
“She is a very well known Persian cat breeder in this area; we have located pictures of the actual exact cats that we have on her breeding website,” said Austin.
There’s a history of complaints about her breeding practices, specifically when it comes to medical issues.
Springfield Police hope they can fully investigate what’s really going on. And the community hopes so too.
“It never ceases to amaze me how much our community supports us and our animal lover community,” said Austin.
Gould faces multiple charges of animal abuse, abandonment and more.