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File | The Journal Gazette

Cat-hoarding pair sentenced to prison


The man and woman who admitted to hoarding more than 100 cats in two different city houses were given prison time Monday for the property destruction they wrought.

Constance J. Anderson, 50, and Jeffrey G. Tourney, 45, were both sentenced in Allen Superior Court to serve 1 1/2 years in prison on felony charges of criminal mischief.

They also received sentences for several misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty which will be served at the time as that sentence, an Allen Superior Court Judge ruled.

Animal care and neighborhood code enforcement officers were called to the Elmer Avenue home – rented by the pair – on March 1 after city officials received a report of abandoned cats inside.

Court documents and testimony Monday detail what they found inside:

•Countertops, furniture and floors covered in feces, 3 to 4 inches deep in some places.

•Eighty-five living cats, which had multiplied through inbreeding, fighting for survival, some of which even resorted to eating their young to live.

•The remains of at least 23 cats – some were scattered throughout the house, like the skull of one kitten, while some were carefully wrapped in tissue and placed in boxes in the refrigerator and freezer.

Investigators found more cats at a second home rented by Anderson and Tourney.

At the second house, on St. Marys Avenue, there were 23 living cats and the remains of 20 dead ones.

Again, many of the cats' remains were wrapped in tissue, placed in boxes and then set in the freezer or refrigerator.

In the corners of rooms of the home the cats began to defecate and urinate, and officials said it wouldn't be long before that home ended up like the one on Elmer Avenue.

Usually, hoarding cases do not result in criminal charges but instead wind up being taken care of through fines from violation of city ordinances, said Belinda Lewis, director of Animal Care and Control.

This case, though, rose to another level because of the sheer volume of animals and the pain these animals suffered.

None of the cats had any human interaction or socialization, she said, and the vast majority had to be euthanized because they could not be adopted.

The animals also suffered from the same physical, mental and emotional maladies any other mammal would suffer as the result of extreme inbreeding, she said.

The ammonia levels in the home were at 150 parts per million, above any home that Lewis, who has worked in the animal field for more than 20 years, has ever encountered.

It took days to get the cats out of the home, and no one could enter without protective equipment.

"It just breaks your heart," Lewis said. "They lived their entire life in that environment. They knew nothing better."

Lewis said the hoarding may have been going on for upwards of two years, which is an unusual span of time for animal care and control to hear no complaints.

During Monday's sentencing hearing, Anderson and Tourney said little other than they were sorry for what they did and how things became out of control.

Anderson said she wrapped the remains of dead cats in tissue and stored them in the freezer and refrigerator so as to give them a burial sometime later.

She claimed at the time the ground outside was too frozen for digging.

"I know that sounds insane," she said.

Previously, she admitted to going inside the home for only a few minutes at a time on occasions and dumping out a bag of food on the floor, allowing the cats to fend for themselves.

By doing this, Lewis said the strong cats were fed while the weaker cats became malnourished.

"Some of my workers described them as skeletons wrapped in a skin covering," Lewis said.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards admonished both Anderson and Tourney during their sentencing hearing.

She noted that Anderson has a college degree in mental health counseling and that Tourney himself had some college education, which meant if anyone should've known what they were doing was wrong, it was them.

And while they did cause damage to property, Richards pointed out the case also required animal care workers to euthanize nearly 100 cats which could not be adopted.

Richards asked the pair rhetorically what they thought those workers went through during all that killing.

"The problem is they don't care and are completely insensitive to the damage they've done," Richards said in arguing the two deserved some prison time.

The Elmer Avenue home, valued at $45,000, is scheduled for demolition, according to court testimony.

The St. Marys Avenue home sustained more than $13,000 worth of damage.

Both Anderson and Tourney said they were remorseful for what happened.

In her sentencing, Judge Wendy Davis gave the pair three years in prison for the two felony counts of criminal mischief, but suspended half that sentence.

She then gave them one year in prison for each of the five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty they pleaded guilty to, but Davis ordered that time served concurrently with the other sentence.

Davis also ordered them to pay nearly $50,000 total in restitution to the property owners for damages to the homes, the fire department and animal care and control for equipment used.

The two will also have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, do community service involving animals or cleaning upon their release, and can own no more than two cats, Davis ruled.

Both Anderson and Tourney said they planned to appeal their sentence and asked for bond so they could be let out of jail while their appeal winds its way through the legal system.

Davis set that bond at $50,000, but as of 9 p.m. Monday, the pair remained in the Allen County jail.