Wednesday July 13, 2011

BENNINGTON -- Two women who were found with more than 80 cats in two cars last year pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple animal cruelty charges.

Bertha A. Ryan, 62, and Regina Millard, both of Troy, N.Y., each pleaded guilty to 13 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division. Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Kate Lamson said the two women faced one count for each cat that had to be euthanized.

Both women were given an 18-month deferred sentence. Lamson said Ryan and Millard must also undergo mental health treatment and counseling during their probation period. They are also not allowed to own or possess any animals.

Lamson said the two women changed their pleas to guilty on the same day a jury was to be selected to hear the case.

Prosecutors had been offering deferred sentences since arraignment proceedings, Lamson said.

"These women had no record. We were really trying to curb their behavior rather than punish them," she said.

Should Ryan or Millard violate the terms of the deferred sentence, they could be required to serve it out in jail. That is unlikely, though, Lamson said.

"I don’t know if we would ask for it and I’m not sure that the judge would order it," she said.

Bennington Police responded to the Aldi grocery store parking lot last October after someone reported people sleeping in a car with a number of cats. Police eventually found more than 80 cats inside two vehicles.

The vehicles and animals were seized by police and the cats were sent to the West Mountain Animal Hospital and Shaftsbury’s Second Chance Animal Shelter. Local officials said all the cats were in need of medical care.

Most of the cats have been put up for adoption.

New York police also seized around 50 cats from Ryan’s home in Troy.

Ryan told the Banner in an interview that she and her sister, Millard, were looking for no-kill shelters for the cats. She said her brother-in-law began hoarding the cats and she was attempting to find homes for the animals.