BernShe lived with 48 sick cats in an apartment full of excrement
A woman has been convicted of animal cruelty. The veterinary service had discovered many cats in her home in poor condition despite several warnings.
During a control visit last March, the Bernese Veterinary Service discovered at least 48 cats in a 59-year-old woman’s apartment. Some were in a bad state: they suffered from colds, herpes infections in the eyes, mites in the ears and infestations of fleas. “The sometimes very advanced changes to the eyes indicate chronic infections,” reads the recently issued criminal order against the woman.
When the staff entered the apartment, the staff were allegedly struck by ‘a pungent smell of ammonia and faeces’. There was faeces and urine on the floor. The six bins were dirty, even the walls were smeared with excrement. Due to the number of cats in the apartment, some were so stressed that they “defecated in the places where they were and had to live near this excrement”.
Overwhelmed by events and out of money
The accused was not unknown to the authorities: at the end of September 2021, she had already received the order to have her cats castrated. In February 2022, the veterinary office repeated its warnings and issued a partial ban on keeping animals. She would only have been entitled to two neutered dogs and ten cats.
However, due to a lack of financial means and because she was overwhelmed by events, the woman could not “ensure that the cats were detained with dignity”, writes the Public Ministry. When the accused failed to act despite repeated requests, she received a suspended sentence of 4,320 francs for animal cruelty with a three-year suspension. She must also pay a fine of 2,120 francs and pay the costs of the case.
“Some owners are not aware of their precarious situation”
This is clearly a phenomenon called “animal hoarding”: a disease that forces people to keep animals in large numbers without being able to properly care for them. “These people do not realize their precarious situation and compulsively hoard the animals, even though they are already overwhelmed by them,” says Esther Geisser, president of the animal welfare organization Netap. Hoarders have a distorted perception of reality. Almost without exception, their turmoil hides a sad human fate. “Often it is elderly people who suffer from loneliness and who have nothing left to do.” They fill this psychological void by taking care of the animals. “They need psychological support to get back on their feet and not fall into a hole,” says Esther Geisser.