29 May 2019
SPCA prosecutes animal hoarder who kept 32 cats in squalid conditions
An Auckland animal hoarder who kept 32 cats in squalid conditions has been sentenced in Manukau district court today.
Jane Whitworth was prosecuted by SPCA and sentenced to 12 month’s supervision, a fine of $5,000, disqualified from
owning felines for five years, and ordered to pay SPCA $4,416.
The case began in August 2016 when SPCA Inspectors attended to a complaint at a South Auckland address. The pathway to
the house was heavily littered in debris, and a large volume of cat litter bags were piled outside the front door.
The Inspectors saw multiple enclosures housing cats around the property, and saw approximately ten cats with obvious
signs of illness. The cats on the property had thin body condition, poor grooming, eyes missing, eye and nasal
discharge, breathing difficulties and were unsociable. When approached, the cats retreated in a frantic manner.
The Inspectors investigated the property and found enclosures housing multiple cats and littered in soiled furniture and
bedding, torn-up newspaper, and faeces. Inside, the kitchen and living areas were also covered in faeces and excessive
amounts of household objects. Throughout the enclosures, house and property there was an excessive stench of ammonia.
The Inspectors left a notice of entry and requested the owner to make contact.
The defendant made contact and said she owned the property and all of the cats. She said that she lived in Central
Auckland, and came daily to feed and water them. She admitted that she had failed to do any cleaning at the property and
the environment was not acceptable. She said that some of the cats had been treated for cat flu, and that she knew the
cats were being re-infected because of the unsanitary living conditions. She agreed to start a cleaning regime, and a
recheck inspection was set up for a fortnight.
Two weeks later, the SPCA Inspectors returned. The property was in the same condition as it was previously. While some
newspaper scraps had been cleaned from the outdoor cabin floors, faeces and urine remained.
A week later, the Inspector team returned to the property with an SPCA vet to complete an examination of all the cats.
The defendant was at the property and became volatile, saying she did not want the cats removed, as they had been living
at the residence their whole lives. She declined surrendering ownership of them to SPCA. The Inspector told her that the
inspection would proceed, at which point she left the property.
A week later, SPCA Inspectors executed a search warrant, assisted by the New Zealand Police. All personnel wore
respirator masks and full body suits to enter the dwelling. Surfaces inside the house were covered in mold, defecation,
mud, old cat litter and soiled materials. Cats were again found to be living in filthy conditions both inside the house
and in the outdoor enclosures.
Thirty-two cats were seized by SPCA, and staff took the cats to SPCA ‘s Auckland Centre veterinary hospital.
The SPCA vet found;
An excessive level of disease in all of the cats
Many of the cats had health concerns including discharge and mucosal tissue visible in empty eye sockets, nasal
discharge, ocular discharge, sneezing, dental disease, increased respiratory effort, and open mouth breathing.
Conditions diagnosed in the cats included severe skin disease, ringworm, severe dental disease, glaucoma, ocular
discharge, nasal discharge and Feline Leukaemia.
The SPCA vet said, “the majority of these health issues caused continual pain and suffering due to the lack of medical
treatment needed. The environment itself would have made it additionally difficult for any cat to remain healthy.” The
veterinarian recommended 18 of the 32 cats be humanely euthanized due to their severe level of ill health and suffering.
A veterinary pathologist found that most of the cats had a thin body condition, and clinical signs of upper respiratory
disease, leading to stress, discomfort and pain.
“This particular case is one of the worst cases of animal hoarding we have prosecuted. These cats were living in filthy
conditions which made them extremely unwell. There was no way to effectively administer the critical medication they
needed, let alone let them have a healthy, good life,” says Andrea Midgen, SPCA CEO.
“Thankfully, under the watchful eye of the SPCA team, the cats who recovered from their illnesses were soon adopted into
loving families. It is a relief for them to be able to live out their lives in happy, healthy homes, never again living
amongst the waste of dozens of other cats, battling recurring health issues, and fighting to survive.”