CLEARFIELD – A Hyde couple faces over 130 counts of animal abuse charges after boxes of dead cats were found outside their apartment.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Lawrence Township police were requested to assist Melony Sopic of the Clearfield County SPCA on Dec. 30 at a Powell Avenue residence.
The animal welfare group was trying to make contact with Ana Elizabeth Houston, 32, and Thomas Duane Rowles, 36, concerning an ongoing cat issue.
Upon arrival, police discovered a stack of seven boxes outside the couple’s front door, which allegedly contained the bodies of 36 dead cats.
As part of the on-scene investigation, officers spoke with both Rowles and Houston. Rowles – when asked – indicated they had been trying to find care for their cats.
Houston explained that she and Rowles had just nine cats originally, and had gotten two fixed; however, the other cats began multiplying.
She said she’d been in contact with Heather Hoover, manager of Animals Matter of Clearfield County Inc. Houston claimed Hoover had advised her that the SPCA wouldn’t take any of the cats.
Police contacted Hoover, who indicated that the couple had first contacted her on Oct. 11 and asked for pet-related items like cat food and litter, which she provided.
She said she began removing cats from the residence Oct. 18, and a total of 28 were removed since then. They didn’t show any signs of sickness or disease.
She said the cats have had routine medical exams, vaccinations and spay/neutering, and there’s been no diagnosis of communicable diseases.
However, on Dec. 20, Hoover said she got a text-message from Rowles and Houston because the cats were vomiting a yellow fluid and dying, which she found indicative of starvation.
Hoover said on Oct. 23, she rushed one kitten to Metzger’s Animal Hospital, where it was reportedly found to have head trauma and pneumonia.
She went to the couple’s residence two weeks earlier, and said they had a total of 55 cats. Sopic reportedly found 26 cats living with them Dec. 30.
Hoover said neither Rowles nor Houston had ever approached her asking if the SPCA would take custody of their cats.
The 26 living cats were removed from the apartment, including one that appeared sickly and was “slumped” over a water bowl. There were only two litter boxes for the cats to use in the apartment.
Sopic indicated that the 26 living cats would have to be euthanized because of the risk of disease spreading to other cats at their facility.
Police also interviewed Curwensville Borough Animal Control Officer Justin Hammond, who assisted Hoover with the removal of the couple’s cats.
At one point, he said Houston commented that someone would have to take the cats or she would be “letting them go.” Then, there were 77 cats in the residence.
Hammond also said that Houston reported that she had buried dead cats in the yard. Rowles told police they found two cats dead about a week earlier and 36 died in a matter of two to three days.
Rowles allegedly admitted that the couple didn’t seek any veterinarian care for any of the cats.
Houston and Rowles are charged with 36 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, 36 misdemeanor counts of neglect of animals and 62 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.
Both waived their right to preliminary hearings Wednesday, sending their cases to county court. Their bail was also modified from $10,000 monetary to unsecured and they were released.