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Courts

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Cat hoarders’ sentences lessened to house arrest

– Just less than a year ago, Constance Anderson and Jeffrey Tourney were sentenced to prison on charges of criminal mischief stemming from a cat hoarding situation.

The pair were sentenced to 1 1/2 years each after they pleaded guilty to the felony charges, admitting to letting their colonies of cats overrun two rental properties.

To reach a felony level of criminal mischief, the damage caused must be in excess of $2,500. They also admitted to five Class A misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty.

But after being out on bond while they appealed their sentence, the pair now face a lesser sentence of house arrest after they cleared every hurdle set for them by Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis.

In March 2012, city officials received a call about multiple cats abandoned inside a house on Elmer Avenue. When officers from Neighborhood Code Enforcement and Animal Care & Control arrived at the house, the odor of cat urine was detectable more than 15 feet from the house, and numerous cats were visible through the windows.

The house reeked of cat urine and decaying carcasses. It took days to capture all the living cats inside the Elmer Avenue house, and many were found in poor condition. As animal control officials and others investigated, they found the inside of the house was covered in cat feces and urine. Most metal surfaces were rusted, and the thermostat showed 58 degrees inside the house, which had no gas.

The body parts of cats were found throughout the house, and officials said a total of 98 cats were found inside – 84 living and 14 dead.

The couple’s cat hoard at the Elmer Avenue house, which was ultimately condemned, caused $64,000 in damage. In a different house where the couple were was staying, a new cat colony caused $13,000 in damage, court documents said.

At the second location, 23 live cats and 21 dead cats were found, including dead cats in the freezer and bags and boxes of dead kittens were also found, with some of the kittens’ bodies in pieces and others appearing to have been struck with a blunt object.

Though Davis initially sentenced Anderson and Tourney to prison, she allowed the couple to remain free on bond while they appealed their case to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

This year, the sentences were upheld by the higher court, so it was time for them to go to prison. But according to court documents, the couple’s “behavior and progress” was such that Davis amended her sentence to allow them to serve their time with Allen County Community Corrections.

On Tuesday, Davis wrote in her orders that Anderson and Tourney will submit to additional psychological testing and evaluation, as well as receive counseling and report living conditions to court officials. Davis set another status hearing for early next month.

rgreen@jg.net

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