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Mass. woman pleads guilty to animal cruelty in last year's abandonment of 15 cats

cats hide in corner

Two of the cats found abandoned in Lanesborough and Richmond a year ago hide in a corner at the Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield. The defendant accused of animal cruelty was sentenced Friday to two years of probation. 

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Animals brought her comfort during times of grief. But Kelly Hathaway found herself in over her head.

That’s according to the defense lawyer. Hathaway, a lifelong Berkshires resident, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts of animal cruelty in connection with what the local humane society calls one of the worst animal abandonment cases it has seen.

Hathaway admitted that she abandoned the 15 cats late last January amid a winter storm in two locations in Richmond and Lanesborough. Most of the cats were rescued and received care in local shelters before being put up for adoption. At least two died.

{p class=”tncms-inline-link”}Two people are facing felony animal cruelty charges for allegedly abandoning 15 cats in late January

She was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service. She is not allowed to have animals in her home while she’s on probation, or work with animals.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss 13 counts of animal cruelty as part of the plea agreement reached between the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and Hathaway’s defense lawyer, Scott Westcott.

Hathaway and the cats were driven to the sites they were abandoned by 60-year-old Arthur Raney, who received community service as punishment for his involvement in the case.

To get to those sites, the pair would have had to drive near the Humane Society, which accepts surrendered animals, Assistant District Attorney Aleah Fisher told Judge Mary Beth Ogulewicz, during a hearing Friday in Central Berkshire District Court.

Woman pets a cat (copy)

Erin Starsja, assistant shelter manager at the Berkshire Humane Society in Pittsfield, pets one of the cats that was rescued in January 2022 after being abandoned on a Richmond roadside. 

“That’s concerning for the commonwealth, that she and Mr. Raney drove past the place where the cats could have gone safely,” Fisher said.

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Westcott said Hathaway, 50, feels a deep sense of remorse for her actions. She cares deeply about animals, but her compassion outstripped her resources.

She had recently experienced a string of deaths in her family, her lawyer said, and came into possession of the cats.

“This is an example of a woman who was finding a way to cope and thought that she was doing good for the animals that she was taking into her care,” Westcott told Ogulewicz.

{p class=”tncms-inline-link”}A Pittsfield woman accused of abandoning 15 cats during a storm last January is expected to enter a plea deal

Eventually, Hathaway’s landlord on Union Street in Pittsfield told her she couldn’t keep the cats. Fisher said Hathaway first asked an acquaintance whether she could take possession of the cats, but the acquaintance told police she declined.

Authorities identified Hathaway and Raney as suspects through interviews and surveillance footage. When approached by police, Hathaway admitted to abandoning the cats, according to Fisher.

Hathaway was also ordered to have a mental health evaluation and follow the practitioner’s recommendations.

Assistant District Attorney Megan Rose, who helped prosecute the case, said one of the primary investigating agencies, the MSPCA, was “very pleased with the outcome as we took into consideration the defendant’s intellectual disability and willingness to accept responsibility.”

Raney was evaluated by a social worker determined he had an intellectual disability.

“Thank you to the Berkshire Humane Society for their assistance with finding homes for the abandoned animals,” Rose said in a statement.

Amanda Burke can be reached at or 413-496-6296.


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