BernShe lived with 48 sick cats in an apartment full of excrement
A woman has been convicted of animal abuse. The veterinary service had discovered many felines 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 the apartment of a 59-year-old woman. Some were in a bad state: they suffered from coryza, herpes infections of the eyes, mites in the ears and infestation of fleas. “The sometimes very advanced alterations of the eyes indicate chronic infections,” reads the penal order recently issued against the woman.
Upon entering the apartment, staff were reportedly struck by ‘a pungent smell of ammonia and feces’. On the floor were feces and urine. The six bins were filthy, even the walls were smeared with excrement. Due to the number of felines 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 without 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 reiterated its warnings and issued a partial ban on keeping animals. She would have been entitled to only two castrated dogs and ten cats.
For lack of financial means and because she was overwhelmed by events, the woman could not however “ensure that the cats were detained with dignity”, writes the Public Ministry. As the accused failed to take action despite repeated requests, she was given a suspended sentence of 4,320 francs for animal abuse with a three-year reprieve. She must also pay a fine of 2120 francs and bear the costs of the proceedings.
“Some owners do not realize their precarious situation”
This is clearly a phenomenon called “animal hoarding”: a disease leading people to keep animals in large numbers, without being able to take care of them properly. “These people do not realize their precarious situation and compulsively hoard the animals, although they are already overwhelmed with them,” says Esther Geisser, president of the animal welfare organization Netap. Animal hoarders have a distorted perception of reality. Virtually 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 psychic 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.