A Washington County woman is facing 22 counts of animal cruelty after the Washington County Humane Society entered a home, which firefighters deemed shaky, to impound 11 cats, according to Washington County District Court records. Washington.
Four of the 11 cats have died, while the remaining seven have been adopted, said Colin Berry, executive director of the humane society.
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The 65-year-old woman, who lives north of Maugansville, was charged with 11 misdemeanors for failing to provide necessary veterinary care, adequate air or adequate space while the animals were in her custody, according to court records. She was also charged with 11 misdemeanor counts of causing or authorizing the infliction of unnecessary suffering or pain on cats.
The woman’s case is scheduled for trial in June. According to the online case file, no defense attorney was attached to the case as of Friday.
A Humane Society Field Services Officer, Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and an Assistant State’s Attorney arrived at the Mason Dixon Road home on February 2 to execute a search and seizure warrant due to to evidence of animal cruelty.
In charging documents filed March 29, Field Services Officer Isaac Mowery describes trash being piled 3 to 5 feet high in a home that also had bugs everywhere and an odor that was “overwhelming” and burned the throat when trying to breathe.
Part of the living room floor had collapsed, leaving a 5-foot-by-5-foot hole in a drop of about 8 feet to the basement, he wrote in charging documents.
A fire department arrived and deemed the home too dangerous to enter, fearing the home was unstable due to a collapsing floor, according to charging documents. Mowery would later see that the floor was “saturated with rotten food and urine, which is the probable cause of the collapsing floor in the sitting room.”
There was no running water or working plugs in the house. Extension cords connected to an outdoor outlet to power a space heater inside, making it a fire hazard, according to court records.
Firefighters told the woman that her home was not safe to live in and that she needed to leave immediately, but she refused, according to court records.
Rich Eichelberger, Washington County director of permits and inspections and code official, said in an April 5 email that he contacted Washington County Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services and received confirmation that They were going to review the matter.
When asked about the firefighters’ concerns about the home’s safety, Eichelberger wrote that county permitting staff are working with the property owner to resolve the issues.
The woman is the owner of the property, according to information on the website of the Maryland Department of Appraisals and Taxes.
Crystal Mowery, director of field services for the Humane Society, said: “Research shows that people living in hoarding situations and that they are hoarders of animals often stems from a psychological condition.”
Mowery said the Humane Society, which functions as the county’s animal control authority, filed charges against the woman due to the physical condition of the cats and their living conditions.
“My hope is … that (this woman) can get help and learn from this and be in a better situation,” Mowery said.
The charging documents indicate that the humane society was at the Mason Dixon Road home in 2017 and removed the animals that were living in “deplorable conditions” under the woman’s care. An animal welfare society official told the woman that if she obtained more animals and kept them in deplorable conditions, depriving them of veterinary care, criminal charges would be filed, according to court records.
When asked why no charges were filed in 2017, Berry said she was not involved in the case at the time. The decision to file charges may depend on the situation in a case. At that time, the woman allowed the animal welfare society to remove the cats from the house and she said that she would be moving out soon. There was a verbal agreement that she would not have any more cats and the likelihood that she would move out, Ella Berry said.
The humane society has been making the rounds to visit people who have been charged in the past or who have turned in animals for treatment in exchange for not being criminally charged, Berry said. Sometimes they find something and sometimes they don’t, she said.
“Right now, the welfare of the animals is our biggest concern” in such cases, he said.
In the Mason Dixon Road case, a field services officer drove past the house and noticed someone living there, Berry said. When the officer “saw trash bags and open cans of cat food strewn across the lawn,” the officer went to the door to do a welfare check.
On February 2, a search and seizure warrant was executed at the house. The cats “were seized” but the woman turned them in before officers left the scene, Berry wrote in an email.
What about the 11 cats removed from the house?
Two cats were euthanized and two others died of medical problems, according to an email from Berry.
Regarding the cats that were euthanized, Berry said humane society veterinarians determined they were in “extreme and poor condition” due to lack of veterinary care and basic negligence.
One of the deceased cats did not survive surgery to amputate a paw to try to prevent sepsis, according to court documents.
That kitten had injuries to two paws that “probably resulted from bites from other cats,” according to charging documents. While it was claimed that the cats were “indoors only,” a field services officer for the SPCA saw cats outside coming into the house through a hole.
The field services officer, who previously noted that he was preparing in a hazmat suit and respirator to enter the home on February 2, wrote in charging documents that he saw two cats on a shelf next to the house. that he was apparently missing an eye, according to court records. state. When they caught up with them, the cats ran.
Two kittens were removed that day. Nine more cats were removed in the days that followed after the humane society left carriers for the woman to trap the remaining cats, according to court records.
Many of the cats had dental and flea-related problems and several were underweight, according to court records.
One cat had an old scar on his left cornea and another had such damage to his left eye that the charging document noted he would need enucleation, that is, removal of the eye.