Rescuers pulling out around 150 cats and other animals from alleged neglect situation in Pennsylvania

By on October 30, 2019 with 26 Comments

It could have been the setting of an eerie movie that our Humane Society of the United States rescuers and law enforcement officers walked into this cool fall morning. The location was Washington County, Pennsylvania, and they were responding to an alleged large-scale animal neglect situation. Before them was a sprawling, old Victorian house with peeling, white paint, and behind the house, on a hill, was an abandoned, red-brick church with a towering steeple, partially wrapped in vines.

It was just heartbreaking inside the church basement. Cats were everywhere, including in the basement of the house, which was a dark, dungeon-like space. The air was stifling, with the rank stench of urine. Some of the animals were in crates piled on top of each other, and others were just wandering around.

Some of the animals are thin, with no apparent source of food or water. Many appear to have upper respiratory infections – “you could hear them breathing, it was this really congested breathing,” said one staff member. Despite their suffering, some of the animals, seeking any kind of attention, approached the visitors and rubbed against their legs.

The house itself was filthy, with trash and clutter piled everywhere and spilling onto the floor – so much so that the responders couldn’t enter some of the rooms. There were feces on the floor and overflowing from litter boxes. Chickens flapped around, some underfoot as our rescuers made their way down the stairs to the basement, which was caked in animal waste.

HSUS and Washington Area Humane Society rescuers will be working late into the night today, with assistance from the county district attorney’s office, Pennsylvania State Police and the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh, to pull out what we estimate could be upwards of 150 animals on this property, and in another townhome belonging to the same person in nearby Westmoreland County. Most of the animals are cats, but there are also chickens and three dogs. The animals will go to an undisclosed shelter location where they will receive much-needed medical care and TLC from RedRover responders.

Our assistance was requested by the Washington Area Humane Society after concerns about the welfare of animals on the property were raised. The privately funded shelter did not have the resources to carry out the rescue by itself, and we were happy to pitch in, both with our resources and with our expertise in carrying out such rescues.

In coming days, we will also be working to ensure that those responsible for such intense animal suffering are held accountable. Fortunately, Pennsylvania lawmakers, in 2017, passed Libre’s Law, a statute that strengthened penalties for those found guilty of animal abuse, cruelty and neglect. The HSUS was among the organizations that led the fight for Libre’s Law, named for a dog who survived terrible abuse and neglect at a Lancaster puppy mill.

When rescues like these occur, government agencies funded by taxpayers as well as privately-funded animal welfare organizations like ours are typically left holding the bill for veterinary and other care that these animals, desperately need. These costs can be considerable, often running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. In recent years, several states have moved to place this burden where it rightly belongs – on those responsible for the animal suffering. Pennsylvania does have a provision addressing the cost of caring for the animals rescued from abusive situations, but the law requires charges to be filed before rescuers can apply for funds, which can result in considerable delays. Our state legislative team will be fighting to strengthen the cost of care law in Pennsylvania and to encourage other states to pass similar laws in the future.

The animals we are transporting today are in safe hands now, and we will do everything possible for them to get a chance at being adopted into loving homes. We are grateful to all of our partners, including the Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt Charitable Trust, and our longtime partner,, for their generous donations to support the expert care and supplies these animals will need in the days to come. We would also like to thank the Brandywine Valley SPCA for their assistance in this case. Tomorrow is a new beginning for these animals, far from the horror and squalor of their basement home, and it is one these animals well deserve.

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Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. J. Smith says:

    Why does it take so long for people that see this happening, friends, family & neighbors to blow the whistle? Please see something say something, & don’t stop screaming from the rooftop until you get attention!

    • Karen Hobbs says:

      Very good question.

    • A says:

      This issue has been reported numerous times by legitimate rescues and individuals since 2016 …people didnt give up..the individual in this case was offered help publicly… on facebook sites where she posted requests for money donations but would never show any receipts for anything and refused to let other rescues take and help sick animals she posted about in distress..then later only to post they had died…. this was not a situation where she went unnoticed .. so the question actually lies …why did it take so long to get someone to listen and investigate?

    • Carol says:

      Totally agree. Someone knew about this and failed to anything before it got so bad ! Shame on you !

    • A Hol says:

      Agreed. Also very disgusted to see the website of this person making it seem as though these poor animals were so cared for; when in fact they were living in such horrible conditions! I hope all these cats make it and hopefully are able to be adopted to wonderful caring homes.

    • Toby Lapin says:


  2. joyce alvarez says:

    She had a humane officer come to her rescue 2 years ago and she was in compliance. She is one woman with VERY LITTLE help trying her best against overwhelming odds. That said, it was time for an intervention. She was over her head. She has a good heart and just didn’t or couldn’t see the big picture. What was not said is that she just purchased a new house and was getting it ready to move the animals to a safer environment. The rescue wasn’t run properly because of lack of funds and help. I’m glad they will be safe and cared for properly now. She is not a monster. She tried saving animals. She really did.

    • Janice Cartwright says:

      These sweet kitties were not”rescued” by this woman! They were imprisoned & not even given a chance to help themselves. What was she thinking? Or was she mentally able to make decisions for the lives of these precious animals.

    • Karen jacobs says:

      STOP stepping up for an animal abuser.

      • Karen jacobs says:

        I also want to add, she just bought a house? Wait- it takes thousands of dollars of a down payment to buy a house. That money should have been used for these cats. They were sick, and without food and water, living in horrific conditions. Filth, filth, filth. The black and white kitty in the photo, look at the condition this cat is living in, look at the expression on it’s face, I will never forget it. And all the other kitties are in the same condition. This is sick sick sick. How could she feed her own mouth knowing those cats were starving and so so sick. Please jail this criminal. I’ve been in law enforcement, I know the evidence is enough to jail her. Please Mr. District Attorney, please be meticulous with your case so that it doesn’t get thrown out. I can take 2 of those cats when they are ready, and give them a great life, plus I’m a non-profit. I can be contacted at please keep me updated on the cats.

    • W. H. says:

      You are not seeing the whole picture. She posted for donations but showed no followup. She PURCHASED ANOTHER HOUSE! Guess where that money went?

  3. Helen Pawlowski says:

    Why did it take so long to report? How did it get this bad without someone stepping in. If you knew children were locked in cages in a basement would you care then? These poor animals.

  4. Sara Phillips says:

    Don’t forget to blame all the uncaring people who neglected to spay or neuter their cats, and then abandoned them. They are also responsible for situations like this.

    • Diane says:

      That’s true!! And every person that dumps their cat or dog at a shelter like it’s just another “material item” that they are either tired of, or don’t have the time or effort to spend quality time with them, or they are getting married, having a baby, or moving. Those that just leave their cat or dog behind when they move. Or just leave them outdoors once they get them, and stop paying any attention to them, then wonder like the idiots they are, WHY they strayed off?? WTH??!! And who in their right mind would keep taking in around 200 cats, etc. without being filthy rich and having a LOT of people working to help you care for that many animals, not to mention Vet bills?? I can understand WANTING to rescue them, but seriously… I’d LOVE to be able to give homes to EVERY cat I see that’s suffering, homeless, and save ALL in shelters about to be EUTHANIZED just because no one will adopt them… but I know my limit. And it breaks my heart just reading about them suffering, and seeing their photos online. I can literally make myself sick crying and being depressed just trying to network all these cats in shelters on ‘death row’ every night/day. I have to take short breaks from it ever so often… it IS heart wrenching to say the least. And I know I can’t feed and properly care for any more than I have now. I suppose if one came to me needing help, I’d have tohelp it, because I certainly couldn’t just turn my back… but then I’d try to find it a loving home. If you see yourself in over your head, you have to find help and learn to let them go where they will be properly loved and cared for. At least TRY to find them a loving person to adopt them, or a dependable foster to help? But one or even 2 people can’t care for 200 cats without financial help.. and help caring for that many too. That’s a full time job!!

  5. Deborah Lewellen says:

    But your state like all the other states allowed this to happen and you allowed all this over Greeding Breeding to occur, ZERO Regulations to stop it. All ultimately falling on the back of the taxpayers, the State allows it, the State picks up the tab to pay for all this utter nonsense, They ALLOW cruelty to take place. Ask the taxpayers truthfully if they want to foot this bill?? Ask them if it’s ok to let these people get away with a slap on the wrist and not have to refund the taxpayers. This Garbage is going on all over the friggin’ country and you do nothing to stop it. STRICT REGULATIONS ON BREEDING HEAVY FINES FOR NOT ADHERING TO THE LAWS AND INTACT ANIMALS. 10’s of 1000’s of animals are destroyed in your gov’t run shelters too, this is just BS, you also expect Non profits to pick up the tab whereby good people donate to the cause to clean up the mess that the Gov’t allowed endorsed and promoted in the first place????? I am so sick of the imbecile mentality of this societal problem that the Govt’ both state, local and federal have allowed to procreate into a literal Cluster F!!!

  6. nancy messer says:

    I am so glad that there are so many wonderful people that help animals ! However, I am fed up with courts allowing the vile sub humans to get away with their cruel actions towards innocent animals ! When are we going to THROW these horrific people in PRISON …not a fine, warning , etc because they go back to doing the same awful things. We need to start making the laws harsh and enforce them . Poor animals suffer/die so badly due to such people and the fact the law does little if any thing to put a end to it !!!!!!!
    Blessings to all that work so hard to save helpless animals .you are the angels on earth !

  7. Kathleen Chojnacki says:

    It seems like there are more and more people hoarding animals these days than ever before. I can’t decide if they’re mentally ill or purposely abusive. I’m sickened by what those poor animals went through, and those responsible need to be punished. The consequences for animal abuse should be so much harsher than what they are now. We need to fight for these animals. God bless all who are helping these poor babies.

  8. Lori says:

    As a registered non profit this situation sickens me and my heart is breaking for each and every one of those poor angels. Although this situation is extreme, I understand how easily things can get out of hand and overwhelming. First of all, once word gets out that you rescue, people assume that you are obligated to take in their unwanted pets or their unspayed cats endless litters of kittens (although you have offered to help with the cost and transportation for the spay and they either refused or never got around to it) and if you refuse due to crowding etc., you’re called nasty names and all too often they just drop them off at your door and run. Then you are left with the animal and nowhere to take it either. The police don’t enforce abandonment laws on these individuals and the unwanted responsibility for these drop offs unfairly fall on the rescue wether said rescue has the funding for their care or not. Iny opinion the Washington County Humane Society is anything but humane and when I found myself in need of help because of drop offs who needed medical care and shelter, I was told that they had a list but it was unlawful to move and leave cats even though I had no choice and the cats didn’t belong to the rescue. Maybe this wasn’t the same situation but as I said, everyone should keep in mind how easy it is to become overwhelmed and real absence of help out there for someone who finds themselves in this type of situation. Especially before it becomes this dire then the help is in my opinion too little too late.

  9. A Solomon says:

    Any idea when or if these animals will be ready for foster and/or adoption?

  10. Cindy tobias says:

    I think when this happens the people responsible should have to pay all money back even in payments for each animals bill..and stay in jail till paid..make them work hard for it.. not only should they get severely punished ..they also need to pay.. every dime. That should be in the new laws as well.. God bless u all ..

  11. Tracy says:

    What happens to the animals that was not in transport today??

  12. Linda dunlap says:

    Linda Dunlap
    Did the first orange cat survive?

  13. AH says:

    Thank you for posting the update. Please keep the updates coming.

  14. Donna Schneider says:

    Alot of the overpopulation problem falls on the backs of the people. We must start new laws about enforcing spay/neuter, stop back yard breeders stop puppy mills and enforce TNR!! This is the only way to get it under control.
    We also need to pass new laws actually punishing animal abusers. No more slaps on the wrists or probation. We want them to serve a sentence worthy of the crime!

  15. Dana Lazarevich says:

    Ever since I saw this post seven months ago I’ve been haunted by the look on the black & white cat’s face. It broke my heart. As well as many others I’m sure. Just not knowing how they did after being in your care has been hard to accept. I decided to try to locate this video and was surprised that I did find it. Thank you for saving them. Thank you for caring.

  16. Bryan Cutlip says:

    We got the Siamese mix found in this tragic situation this year! He had been adopted by a family who wasn’t as accepting of his quirks as we are, but they returned him to the shelter we found him at and was listed as a “staff only” cat due to not knowing how to act with other cats! He’s incredibly skittish but slowly easing up and finding this really explained more to his story! He has friends now and we watched him learn to play and his trust is gaining slowly towards us, he’s a lap cat at heart!

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