Don’t assume your loved ones are okay, say cat breeder / cat grabber’s family | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Julie Riddle David Massey displays paintings recovered from the home of recently deceased sister Candice Massey in which police found dozens of cats. The painting on the right shows a ship used by the Masseys’ father in his Alpena-based marine rescue business.

ALPENA – Appearances can be deceptive, say family members of Candice Massey, the Alpena Township cat breeder whose death in a car crash on New Years Eve led police to a house where dozens of cats struggled to live amid the chaos and unsanitary conditions of a home grabber.

Animal control officers have removed 39 cats from the home since discovering the animals straying among the garbage, destroyed furniture and droppings.

Alpena County Animal Control Officer Michelle Reid said on Wednesday that workers could not find any other living cats and that the remaining animals – which she said could number several dozen cats alive on Sunday – were presumed dead.

People familiar with Massey as a breeder of the rare brown Havana cat likely knew her as a polite, easy-going and very intelligent woman, her brother, David Massey, said.

Others encountered a hostile and aggressive woman, estranged from her family and unwilling to accept help for hoarding tendencies that have kept her life in hidden turmoil for decades, the brother said.

News Photo by Julie Riddle David Massey is displaying a collage recovered from the home of recently deceased sister Candice Massey in which police found dozens of cats this weekend. The collage includes photos of the Masseys’ father, who operated a well-known marine salvage business based in Alpena.

People who say they are fine may not be well, said David Massey, urging people to watch their loved ones even if they don’t ask for help.

“They won’t tell you that something is wrong,” he said. “They can lie between their teeth rather than telling you things are the way they are.”


David Massey gave his sister his first two cats about 40 years ago. From there, he said, “it turned into a cat’s nightmare.”

Within a few years, Candice Massey made a name for herself as a breeder of Havana Browns, a rare cat bred by a few breeders in the country.

She also developed a hoarding habit, her brother said.

Discovering the dangerous conditions she lived in, animal control officers forced the rancher out of her Detroit home around 2005, bringing wheelbarrows to transport debris and animal carcasses, family members have confirmed. .

Candice Massey moved to Alpena Township to care for her aging father, Bob Massey, who operated a marine salvage business based in Alpena.

When the eldest Massey died in 2014, her daughter stayed at home but, according to her brother, slept in her car in the driveway in recent years as the house had become uninhabitable.


David Massey regularly exchanged emails with his sister and received one the night she died, wishing her a Happy New Year. She was planning to travel to another state in mid-January to deliver a cat to a buyer, he said.

According to Reid, the animal will be delivered to its buyer as soon as it is found to be healthy and animal control officers can schedule the delivery.

David Massey knew the story of his sister’s hoarding, but did not visit her from his downstate home. His house had lost heat, he knew, but “I thought things had improved,” he said.

Police told David Massey his sister died of a heart attack while turning onto Golf Course Road from US 23-North on Friday night. Paramedics restarted her heart and took her to hospital, but medical staff were unable to save her, she was told.

His health had likely been compromised by years of living near cat-related vapors, he supposed.

When he asked her if she was okay, she told him yes, he said.

“All she had to do was reach out and say, ‘Help me,’” the brother said.


Candice Massey’s state of health had not gone unnoticed, said April Halaby, niece of the Massey siblings.

Her aunt, although rude to many humans, cared about her cats and believed she took care of them, believes Halaby, but the breeder refused to seek medical attention for his animals and allowed them to live. in horrible conditions for more than a decade. .

About a dozen years ago, Halaby visited her aunt’s house in Alpena Township to stay with her grandfather while Candice Massey attended a cat show.

The niece was dismayed to find around 50 cats living in appalling conditions in half of the house, including a bedroom where most of them stayed, some sleeping on the flattened bodies of other deceased cats.

At the time, she contacted animal control officers and social service workers at Alpena, but was told there was nothing legally agencies could do to help Halaby’s grandfather, who told the workers that he did not wish to be removed from the house, Halaby said.

The animal control officer told Halaby he was unable to enter the house to confirm the cats’ condition, and Halaby, to his regret, had not photographed the house before leaving, not to be allowed to return because of her aunt’s anger against her. niece’s reports.

Animal control was not under the auspices of the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office at the time, according to Sheriff Steven Kieliszewski.

The News has not yet confirmed whether a social service agency responded to a complaint about Candice Massey before her death.

Living outside the area, Halaby gave up on trying to help her aunt, hoping that someone in the Alpena area would see that she needed help and provide it to her.


Then again, if anyone had offered help, his aunt probably would have turned it down, Halaby said.

David Massey agreed.

People in difficult circumstances, whether due to a mental, physical, financial or other challenge, may become too embarrassed to let people help them, unwilling to let anyone see the depths they have sunk into, did he declare.

Don’t trust a loved one who says they don’t need help if your instincts tell you otherwise, pleaded David Massey, weary of days of mourning the loss of a sister and facing a horror-filled house that suddenly belongs to him.

“If it takes a trip, go see them,” he said, his voice tight and his eyes shining. “Even if you have to get on the bus. Whichever way you need to do it, go for it.

The cats rescued from Candice Massey’s home, currently housed in cages in the old Alpena County Jail building, will be placed in the care of a rescue organization, which will provide medical treatment for the cats and coordinate the adoptions once the animals have recovered. , said Reid.

David Massey said he could bulldoze his sister’s house.

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