Two sisters who police reported had more than 80 cats inside their cars are now facing criminal animal cruelty charges.
Bennington, Vermont, County Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett said that after reviewing the police affidavit, criminal charges should replace civil citations issued by police last week to Regina Millard and Bertha Ryan of Troy, New York.
In an interview with the Albany Times Union, Ryan said that she and Millard were trying to help the cats. “I was trying to do a good thing for a good cause,” she said. “They weren’t being neglected. They were being fed, they had water and they had food.”
But Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said that further investigation revealed that the women weren’t telling the full story. “Some people think [Ryan and Millard] were doing the right thing, and initially we thought they were trying to do the right thing, but now our investigation shows they were trying to avoid prosecution by New York authorities,” Doucette said.
Troy police visited Millard’s Schaghticoke, New York, home last Thursday, the day before they were cited in Bennington, and said the cats must be removed, according to the Albany Times Union.
Bennington Police got involved in the case against Millard and Ryan, who are sisters, after a complaint was made from a local Aldi grocery store Friday afternoon. A caller reported people sleeping in the vehicles with the cats.
Bennington Police Cpl. Thalia Hudson said that when she arrived at the store Millard was cleaning a litter box located in one car’s trunk by putting feline fecal matter on the blacktop. Ryan first claimed she and Millard were going to a shelter in Plattsburgh. N.Y., then said they were on their way to a shelter in Greenfield Center, N.Y. After further questioning Ryan said they were just seeking a “no kill” shelter for the animals.
Hudson estimated at the time that there were 25 to 30 cats of varying ages in each car, and many of them appeared to be sick.
The sisters’ cars were towed to a town highway garage while police tried to get a search warrant. Hudson said a judge could not be reached, but a veterinarian on scene said the cats needed to be removed immediately “based on exigent circumstances.”
Veterinarian Linda Morris examined all the cats and found that all of them had fleas and ear mites, and most were emaciated. All the cats had upper respiratory infections, and some were wheezing and gasping for breath.
Hudson said some of the cats suffered from untreated feline glaucoma. Many had ulcerated mouths so severe that parts of their mouths are missing.
Doucette reported that some of the cats had to be euthanized over the weekend because of their condition. Four kittens have been born since Friday and others may still be born, he said.
The cats have been transported to Great Fields Kennel, West Mountain Animal Shelter and the Second Chance Animal Center.
Yesterday Doucette reported that a total of 84 cats were removed from the cars, including one dead cat in the trunk, wrapped in a garbage bag.
“It could be multiple charges; we’re looking into that now,” State Attorney Plunkett said.
Doucette said the sisters have agreed to relinquish ownership of some of the cats.
[Source: Bennington Banner]