The video of Michelle Regel’s Suffolk Avenue home shows dozens of flea-infested cats milling about trash-strewn rooms.
Moldering animal feces is visibly caked onto the kitchen countertops and floors in the footage shot by the Schenectady County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Garbage is strewn about the residence, which was home to 34 cats and one dog.
But the vile appearance of the home was nowhere near as gut-wrenching as its smell, said SPCA Chief Matthew Tulley. Neighbors apparently alerted the town about the omnipresent stench from Regel’s house this past summer, but nothing came of the complaints.
“Literally two or three blocks away you could smell the house,” he said Thursday.
The condition of the home had deteriorated so badly that Regel was forced to move into her garage. Tulley said she was still living there when the SPCA arrived late Wednesday evening.
The SPCA came to Regel’s home after a local law enforcement officer tipped them off about its condition. They seized the animals and cited Regel for one count of animal abuse, though they did indicate she was fully cooperative during the visit.
The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Regel could also lose the right to own animals for up to three years.
Rotterdam’s building inspector condemned the home once all of the animals were removed. Regel is now staying with a friend in Saratoga County. She did not answer a call to her cellphone seeking comment for this story.
In comments to CBS 6 Albany, The Gazette’s news-gathering partner, Regel said she was glad the SPCA removed the animals. She said she tried to find an organization to take the cats but came up empty. “I’m very happy this happened because I want these guys taken care of the way they should be,” she said during an interview Thursday.
Town Supervisor Frank Del Gallo was unsure why nothing was done about Regel’s house before the SPCA visit. He said the town’s animal control officer paid a visit to the home recently but was overwhelmed by the smell.
“He couldn’t even get near the house it stank so bad,” Del Gallo said.
Tulley said the SPCA could have charged Regel with counts of animal cruelty for each of the pets she had but decided against it due to her cooperation. He’s also advised the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office to not seek jail time for the one count she does face.
“She’s another example of someone who got in over her head,” he said. “What started out as a handful multiplied quickly, the way cats do.”
Tulley said the animals are generally in good shape, aside from some minor infections and fleas. The dog, however, will probably be euthanized, he said.
The seizure opened a larger budgetary problem for the SPCA. The agency’s funding is now totally depleted, in part because of its response in the aftermath of the flooding over the summer.
The SPCA is holding 17 of Regel’s cats. The remaining animals were fortunately taken by Sharon Wemple’s Cat Tales Rescue of Niskayuna because the SPCA wouldn’t have had enough money to find shelters for them otherwise.
“Since there were so many cats, it was difficult finding a shelter that was going to take just some of the cats, let alone all of them,” Tully said.
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