This week, Lin Marie, the owner of Tiger Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, was sentenced to house arrest and probation for the murder by neglect of over 7000 cats. Here’s the story from the Post-Gazette:
The image that Lin Marie (right) presented to the animal rescue community of her cat sanctuary was one of love and success. She described “Tiger Ranch” as “the land of milk and tuna,” where hundreds of cats were taken in and adopted back out each month.
But prosecutors yesterday, in asking an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge to sentence the woman formerly known as Linda Bruno to jail time, presented a bleak and disturbing image where diseased cats were left to contaminate the healthy, only 21 cats were adopted out of thousands taken in, and mass graves dotted the 29-acre Frazer property.
Judge Jill A. Rangos, who repeatedly admonished the defendant and expressed her disappointment in the multitude of lies she told, did not order the woman to jail.
But she didn’t discount the possibility either.
Instead, the judge ordered Ms. Marie, 47, to serve two years of house arrest, followed by 27 years of probation. But Judge Rangos also told the defendant she would not hesitate to put Ms. Marie in jail if she violates even the slightest of conditions of her release.
Among those, she is to have no contact with any animals and she must undergo a psychiatric evaluation and participate in weekly mental health treatment.
“I give you this break, in part, not because you deserve it, but I don’t feel the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should pay to warehouse you at the jail,” the judge said.
Further, she added, house arrest will allow Ms. Marie to continue working to earn money to cover restitution. She was ordered to pay $200,000 to cover the cost of the veterinary care provided to the 391 live cats seized during the March 2008 raid of the facility.
A former humane agent who began volunteering at Tiger Ranch in August 2007 went to local animal rights groups to complain almost immediately about the conditions she saw.
However, it was the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that finally agreed to help pursue the case.
Along with local law enforcement, they organized a raid on March 13, 2008, bringing in mobile veterinary clinics and dozens of people to help catch the hundreds of cats.
“It’s unforgiveable this was going on for so long,” said Dr. Becky Morrow, a veterinarian who helped with the investigation, at the raid and in the many months since. “The smell alone would have tipped anyone off.”
Originally facing hundreds of counts of animal cruelty, Ms. Marie pleaded guilty in July to 12 counts, plus an additional two counts of tampering with records.
Assistant District Attorney Deborah Jugan laid out for the judge, in very minute detail, the number of cats — both alive and dead — found on the property and their medical conditions.
According to Ms. Marie’s own records, the prosecutor said, there should have been 7,819 cats on the property that she had taken in. Instead, they recovered 391 live cats and 106 that were dead and stored in freezers. Of the live cats, 300 of them were malnourished, and 294 had some form of upper respiratory infection.
Ms. Marie paid a man with a Bobcat to dig mass graves for her on a regular basis, the prosecutor said. The last one was 30 feet long, 12 feet deep and 12 feet wide.
“You couldn’t walk on Tiger Ranch without stepping on cat bones,” Ms. Jugan said. “I often wonder if she told so many lies she started believing them. It’s amazing how many people this woman was able to con.”
But as she spoke to the judge, Ms. Marie said she was past the lying she had done. She had undergone what she called a “paradigm shift.”
“I’m sorry, and I’m sad. I’d like to move on with a life that’s different,” she said. “I just hope I get a chance to work on me. I want to work on me.”
Before announcing the sentence, the judge commended the prosecutor for her “extraordinary effort,” and then turned her attention to Ms. Marie.
“I am tremendously disappointed that despite the opportunity I did give you, you have either chosen not to cooperate and [instead] spew vitriol in other people’s direction without taking any personal responsibility for the disaster Tiger Ranch became,” Judge Rangos said.
Ms. Marie interrupted.
“It is my fault, no doubt. I abdicate nothing. I take full responsibility.”
Of the 391 cats that were rescued, 240 survived. Sixty chronically ill cats that cannot be adopted now live in a house bought by Dr. Morrow that has been turned into a sanctuary. There remain 50 cats that are healthy and available for adoption. They can be viewed at tigerranchrescues.com.