Two Baltimore County residents have been sentenced to serve 60 days in prison and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to Animal Services after police found more than 220 cats, 74 of which were dead, in their Middle River home last year.
Garriott J. Cox, 54, and Pamela J. Arrington, 52, both of the 10000 block of Bird River Road in Middle River, were found guilty in Nov. 11 of three of the 63 counts of animal cruelty and failure to provide food, drink and care.
As part of the sentence, Circuit Court Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts ordered the pair to be put on supervised probation for three years and prohibited from possessing an animal while on probation. And they must submit to an updated mental health evaluation and follow any recommended treatment, the judge ordered.
Adam Lippe, a prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office, said the courts don’t have the legal authority to issue a “lifetime ban” precluding someone from owning an animal.
“I would hope that they would think twice about doing this again,” he added.
Lippe brought the charges after county authorities recovered 76 live cats and 15 dead cats from a shed and detached garage in an Oct. 9 search last year.
A week later, police also found 74 live cats, 59 dead cats, one live bird and two live dogs that had been kept in cages in the master bedroom, as well as one other dead animal, according to charging documents.
“There were cats in the walls — that’s how bad it was,” Lippe said.
Dead cats, found in varying states of decomposition, were stowed in coolers covered with flies, gnats and maggots in a shed on the property. The inside of Cox’s and Arrington’s home was covered in feces, urine and debris, with loose cats running around, police wrote in a report last year.
Fire department personnel who responded to the home wore hazmat suits “because of how bad the smell was and the conditions,” Lippe said.
The living cats found by police showed signs of leukemia, conjunctivitis, upper respiratory infection or other infections, said a veterinarian who had responded to the scene. Some also exhibited behavior consistent with animals experiencing starvation, according to an animal services officer who saw many cats thrashing and jumping around inside the cages.
Arrington and Cox operated a trap, neuter, vaccinate and release program, a county program in which volunteers capture feral cats and have them vaccinated by Animal Services before they’re released.
But instead of releasing the cats after they were neutered, Arrington and Cox would sell them to stores like PetSmart and PetCo, Lippe said.
“The ones that didn’t sell were left die in cages,” he said.
Wray McCurdy, a Baltimore attorney representing Cox and Arrington, was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.
During sentencing, Lippe said the couple showed no remorse for their actions.
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“To let this happen to animals for a long period of time and trying to profit it from was horrendous — they had no sense of remorse. They never said they were sorry for what they did,” he said.
Their organization, Colony Cats of Bird River and Beyond, is registered with the IRS as charitable organization, but did not have a license to hold a large number of animals.
Baltimore County put nearly 50 of the rescued cats up for adoption just after the charges were announced last year, and waived adoption fees.
Thirty of the cats were quickly adopted and 30 others were sent to animal rescue organizations, according to the county. Sixteen cats, the county said last November, had to be euthanized.
Lippe, who prosecutes animal abuse cases for the state’s attorney’s office, said his office had seen an uptick of cases during the coronavirus pandemic because more residents are home, noticing animal neglect, and are reporting instances of abuse to authorities.
Especially as the weather gets colder and animals may be left outside in harsh conditions, Lippe encouraged residents to call police or Animal Control if they spot a neglected pet.
“Someone will respond and they’re able to make difference,” he said.