MIAMI (CBSMiami / AP) – A woman who hoarded cats in her South Florida apartment and starved some was sentenced to 364 days in prison.
Cheryn Smilen, 56, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and is now being prevented from owning or attempting to save animals, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
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“You have to stay away from animal rescue organizations,” Miami-Dade Circuit judge Alberto Milian told her during a hearing on Monday.
Smilen fed street cats every night and started hoarding them in the small, efficient apartment. Neighbors told investigators that they often heard the cats scratching the windows and crying, but they never saw smiles. The police finally brought a terrible smell into the house almost three years ago.
Inside, investigators found some emaciated and malnourished cats, and bones littered the scene, suggesting that some cats had eaten each other, according to the Herald.
Miami-Dade police detective Judy Webb testified in August 2018 that she saw “dead cats over dead cats over dead cats.” Evidence suggested they had been dead for months.
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“There was no way she knew this was happening,” Webb told the court.
The house was encrusted with feces and smelled of cat urine. The air conditioning worked but was not on, the Herald reported. Investigators also found plenty of bags and cans of cat food inside and outside the house, but Smilen had not fed the animals.
“It’s hard for me to believe how people can be so cruel,” the judge told her, adding that he found no reason to believe that the cats are not suffering.
Smilen cried at the podium and said, “I know they did.”
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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)