Women toting 77 cats stopped, face charges
BENNINGTON -- Local police, after finding 77 cats in two separate vehicles, issued civil citations for animal cruelty to two Troy, N.Y., women Friday afternoon that could be upgraded to criminal charges following a review by the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s office.
Regina Millard, 54, and Bertha Ryan, 61, both of Troy, were issued civil citations that carry $300 fines. Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said a criminal affidavit will be filed by police and reviewed Monday by prosecutors, who may choose to upgrade the charges to a criminal act.
A total of 77 cats were found inside the two vehicles, including one found dead in a trunk. Doucette said police originally thought 50 cats were in the cars -- 27 in one car and 23 in the other. The cats were of varying ages, he said. Each car had two passengers, Doucette said, and one contained a litter box. Both vehicles had a strong odor emanating from windows opened by police to provide the cats with air.
"The stench is nauseating," Doucette said.
Plates of food were in the vehicles. Some of the cats had fecal matter matted to their fur, according to Doucette. Police began investigating the cars after a complaint was made from the Aldi grocery store around 1 p.m. Bennington Police Sgt. Lloyd Dean said someone reported people sleeping in the vehicles with the cats.
Police had both vehicles towed to the town’s highway garage on Depot Street. Officers used plastic suits and air packs to perform a cursory search of the vehicles while awaiting a search warrant. "They refused to voluntarily relinquish ownership of the cats," Dean said.
It took police until 9 p.m. to remove all of the animals, according to Dean.
Doucette said just two of the cats are owned by occupants in the vehicles. The rest, including stray and feral cats, were picked up in various places, he said. Millard and Ryan were apparently looking for homes for the animals, Doucette said. "They were driving from shelter to shelter trying to give some of the cats away for adoption," he said.
Doucette said the town’s animal control officer would seek shelters to house the cats while the case is pending.
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