Monday, October 12, 2009

Woman who had 56 cats gets year in jail


A judge yesterday described conditions in a home overrun with dozens of cats as the most grotesque he has seen in 25 years of judicial service.

Staring silently at a sheaf of pictures of the dwelling's interior, Chesterfield General District Judge Robert D. Laney blanched and told the home's occasional occupant that the pictures were worse than those he has viewed of German prison camps, homicide victims and lifeless teenage drivers.

Moments later, Laney sentenced Patti Wheeler, 52, also known as "Cookie," to a year in jail on multiple counts of animal cruelty. And he certified a felony charge of destruction of private property -- the house, now condemned -- to a grand jury.

On May 14 last year, animal control officers found 56 cats living in filth so pervasive that there was no place in the three-bedroom home not covered in feces, skeletal remains, or dried blood and hair. The house is in the 4500 block of Treely Road.

More than 30 of the cats had to be euthanized, including two whose eyeballs had abscessed so severely that the organs collapsed. Another had a bladder the size of a softball.

C.T. Coats, an animal control officer, testified that the house reeked of ammonia from urine, children's swimming pools were filled with animal excrement, and the remains of dead animals littered the home. One carcass was found in a cutlery drawer.

Coats said he and his fellow officers found a mother cat suckling her kitten atop a skeleton. There were also four dogs, two of which were euthanized.

"The [jail] time is for the suffering you subjected on these animals," the judge told Wheeler, who will appeal the cruelty convictions to circuit court and have the property charge heard there.

"I don't see how you could turn a blind eye to what I have just seen in these pictures," the judge said..." More