Oakland County authorities say Jonathan and Jennifer Klein were arraigned June 11 on one count each of abandonment or cruelty to 10 or more animals, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and up to 500 hours of community service. They were released after paying a $1,000 bond each and would be summoned back to court June 20, the Oakland Press reported.
Oakland County Animal Shelter & Pet Adoption Center pressed charges against the Kleins, who were held responsible for “the largest animal hoarding case in Oakland County history.”
“This is the worst animal hoarding case I have seen in my entire career,” Oakland County Animal Shelter & Pet Adoption Center Manager Bob Gatt said. “These cats were living in deplorable conditions. They were not provided with the adequate care necessary to maintain good health.”
Animal control officers removed 178 cats from their West Bloomfield Township residence from April 24 to May 17. At least 60 of those cats have been euthanized due to severe illness, according to Oakland County authorities.
Many of the cats that were removed from the house were suffering from various medical problems including infections, fleas, ear mites, and malnutrition. A number of pregnant cats have also given birth since arriving at the shelter.
The investigation started when Oakland County’s animal control officer Rachel Whitlock went to the couple’s residence on the afternoon of April 24 to perform a welfare check after receiving a complaint for cats that were believed to be abandoned inside the house. Looking through the house’s windows, she spotted at least a half-dozen cats that appeared to be sick without food or water.
After Whitlock spoke to the complainant and neighbors, she obtained a warrant to remove the cats from the house with the assistance of the West Bloomfield Police Department. When the officers entered the house, only to discover more than 100 cats in miserable conditions. They had to call in additional animal control officers and staff to assist with the removal.
The Kleins relinquished ownership of all the cats inside the home to the Oakland County Animal Shelter on April 26, allowing the officers to continue removing the remaining cats. They were able to clear the house by May 17, rescuing 178.
The Kleins are banned from having contact with any animals while their case proceeds in court, according to the Oakland County authority.