A former animal rescue worker in Florida has been sentenced to a year behind bars for hoarding dozens of cats and leaving them to starve.
In a plea deal, Cheryn Smilen, 56, copped to six counts of animal cruelty and accepted a sentence of 364 days in the slammer — to be followed by 15 years of probation, the Miami Herald reported.
The Northeast Miami-Dade woman also will be forbidden from owning or trying to rescue any more animals.
“You have to stay away from animal-rescue organizations,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian told her during a hearing Monday.
“You really got a just sentence. There is no reason to believe these animals didn’t suffer a great deal,” he added.
“I know they did,” Smilen said, choking up.
Milian added: “It’s hard for me to believe how humans can be so cruel.”
Smilen was well known in the local pet-rescue community, feeding strays and rescuing many with hopes of finding them forever homes, but authorities said she began hoarding the cats inside her small home, according to the newspaper.
Neighbors reported seeing and hearing the poor felines scratching and crying at the windows, with Smilen nowhere to found.
Police finally responded to her home in 2018 in response to a foul odor and discovered
the emaciated and malnourished cats, as well as bones, which suggested that some of the animals had eaten each other.
Police Detective Judy Webb testified that she saw “dead cats over dead cats over dead cats.”
During a hearing in August 2019, Webb told the judge: “These cats had been dead for months, not weeks. Some of them were in different stages of decomposition. There’s no way she didn’t know this was happening.”
Police officers also saw plenty of cat food stocked inside and outside the home, but Smilen had not given any of it to the starving felines, according to the report.