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56 cats rescued from 'deplorable conditions' in Middletown; women charged


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Two women have been arrested after animal welfare officers discovered 56 cats living in “inhumane, deplorable conditions” in a Middletown home this week.

On Tuesday, the Office of Animal Welfare’s Delaware Animal Services enforcement unit responded to a complaint concerning the well-being of the animals kept on a property. 

After obtaining a search warrant to enter the property, officers discovered 56 cats in a single wide trailer. Responders then called in Brandywine Valley SPCA to assist in securing the large number of animals.

Many of the cats are suffering hair loss from severe flea dermatitis, several are abnormally weak and some suffer from severe upper respiratory conditions, according to a statement released by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. 

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One of the cats was in such poor health it had to be rushed to a veterinary hospital. The cat was later euthanized, according to the statement, and another cat was found already deceased and was removed from the home.

On Friday, the Office of Animal Welfare announced the arrest of Cheryl Joseph and Amy Wood, both of Middletown. 

Joseph, 53, was arraigned in Justice Peace Court 11 in New Castle, on 50 charges including 48 counts of cruel neglect and two counts of felony animal cruelty. 

Wood, 60, was arraigned on five counts of cruel neglect. 

Both women were released on their own recognizance, officials said, and have been prohibited from possessing domestic animals pending a court hearing. 

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“No animal should live in the conditions in which we found these cats,” said Delaware Animal Services Chief Mark Tobin in a released statement. “We feel good knowing they are safe and will not suffer any longer.”  

The cats have been transferred into the custody of Brandywine SPCA, where they will receive necessary care and treatment, the SPCA stated.

Some of the cats are already up for adoption through Brandywine Valley SPCA’s New Castle and West Chester campuses, the shelter said in the statement, and others will be available soon based on needed treatment and the animals’ time needed to adjust. 

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Despite their living conditions, the cats seem to be well socialized, authorities said. 

“If you’re considering adoption, I encourage you to visit a BVSPCA shelter near you,” said Christina Motoyoshi, executive director of the Office of Animal Welfare, in a statement released by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “You can make a huge difference in the life of a cat that was once so neglected.” 

People interested in adopting should fill out a form at bvspca.org/56-cats/.  

To report animal cruelty in Delaware, call Delaware Animal Services at 302-255-4646.