This story relates to America but is still pertinent to animal groups in the UK.
Authorities visited 50-year-old Irene Vandyke's home following a neighbour complaint. The neighbour complained there was an excessive smell of cat urine and faeces seeping into their home. The smell emanating from Vandyke's ‘squalid’ home, in Wright, near Albany, New York, was overpowering. What they discovered was shocking.
The woman had 67 dead cats stored in plastic bags in her freezer. The smell of cat urine and faeces came from another 99 felines living in stacked crates. The cats were living in cramped conditions, housed in small cages.
Schoharie county sheriff Tony Desmond said Ms Vandyke may now face criminal charges. "We felt sorry for her and bad for the kittens at the same time", he told the Times Union of Albany. The Sheriff will meet with local prosecutors next week to decide whether or not to charge Vandyke. Although he expressed empathy with the woman he is hoping the District Attorney will prosecute.
The dead cats will be examined in an attempt to determine the cause of death. The Animal Shelter of Schoharie is temporarily caring for the rescued cats. Kerrie Colin, the manager of the animal shelter told the media that she knew Vandyke had a ‘cat crisis’. He had in fact known this for two years. Ms Vandyke had refused all offers of help.
Vandyke visited the shelter in the past for offers of help. She accepted food for the cats. However when workers at the shelter tried to persuade her to hand over some of cats she ‘freaked out’ Visitors to her home who tried to coax her to surrender some of the cats, were hastily shown the door. Consequently Ms Vandyke stopped visiting the shelter.
Mr Kerrie said "She definitely had a hoarder mentality. She's not a horrible person. She just needs help and counselling."
According to The Times Union, "The excessive collecting of items, frequently animals, is also called compulsive hoarding syndrome. It is a psychological affliction often related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. In severe forms, psychological treatment is recommended".
Ms Vandyke was widowed in December 2010. She works for a local Walmart.
Whilst Ms Vandyke may need help and counselling she should also face a prosecution. A stark message needs to be sent out to others. Whether she was misguided, foolish, mentally unstable or cruel, the outcome for the cats has been pretty much the same. More than one hundred cats have suffered.
Perhaps what is most surprising, though, is why the shelter did not act sooner? Mr Kerrie told media sources he had known of her problems for two years. Surely an animal shelter’s priority should be the animals not their owner? Had he acted sooner he may have helped both.
The images show the cats in cramped conditions although they do not appear mistreated. Whether they lived 24/7 in the cages is not known. The surviving cats are receiving medical treatment.
When the rescued cats have recovered and been given a clean bill of health they will be available for adoption.
Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley website
Times Union of Albany, SkyNews
Animals matter the world over.