Ending a lengthy ordeal that racked up thousands of dollars in expenses and required that dozens of sickly Himalayan cats be euthanized, Prince William Animal Control officials this week gave to new owners the last surviving cat seized from a Dale City family in April.
Gary Sprifke, administrator of Prince William County Animal Control, said the last cat was adopted Monday, more than three months after police found 51 cats living in "terrible" conditions at the Kenwood Drive home of Janice Van Meter. The cats were infected with ringworm, fleas, maggots, ear mites and internal parasites. They had been living in a portion of Van Meter's home that was covered in feces, urine and cat hair and were removed when discovered April 28.
Just 18 of the cats--including a number of kittens born at the county's animal shelter--were adopted since Van Meter gave up ownership of the pets as part of a plea agreement early last month. Van Meter was given a one-year suspended jail sentence and two years of probation on two counts of cruelty to animals and will have to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
Sprifke said that caring for the cats cost the county about $5,700, adding that almost 40 of the cats had to be euthanized because they were essentially "unadoptable."
"People came in here specifically with the interest of adopting some of those cats, and once they saw them, they weren't willing to take on that much work," Sprifke said. "The most unfortunate part of it is that the cats were allowed to get to that position to begin with."
According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Northern Virginia, SPCA volunteers adopted 11 of the Himalayan cats and have placed them in foster homes pending permanent adoptions. A member of the SPCA's board of directors said this week that the cats have extreme socialization problems and are in "horrific" physical condition.
"They are afraid of people. They don't know how to act, like they've never been touched before," said Sherry Garay, secretary of the SPCA board. "I tried to brush my cat, and he had no idea what the brush was. He doesn't look like a cat at all. He's a mess. It's so obvious how terribly they were taken care of."
Garay said SPCA volunteers plan to care for the cats for at least four to six weeks before offering them for permanent adoption, at which time they should be ready to go into normal homes.
Van Meter has declined to comment. Her attorney, Mark Henshaw, said she was "dejected and despondent" about losing her pets. Though she cannot own pets during her two years of probation, Henshaw said Van Meter intends to own pets again as soon as the probation expires.