URGENT: Help Get Justice for Hundreds of Animals Seized From Hoarder Hell!
UPDATE: Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse called our office in response to your calls and letters. Morse promised to send us his reasons for not holding accountable the individual(s) responsible for the severe neglect and prolonged suffering that was allowed to persist at Last Hope Cat Kingdom. The form letter that we received was a disappointing, tired list of excuses that officials often make in hoarding cases, virtually defending those responsible for the horrific suffering and deaths of hundreds of animals at Last Hope.
The response by the District Attorney’s Office to concerned animal activists includes two letters from individuals supporting Last Hope operator Renate Schmitz and the hoarding disorder that she exhibits and ignores experts in the field of cruelty-to-animals investigations. Expert eyewitnesses stated that the case commands prosecution because of “substantial and overwhelming evidence” of conditions that violate state animal protection laws. Examining veterinarians apparently agreed; one stated that conditions at Last Hope constituted “neglect” and felt that “immediate action” was required.
There is no understandable explanation for why the district attorney in Merced County is refusing to act in this case. Animal hoarding cases have been competently prosecuted across California, including the following:
- When a self-professed animal “rescuer” in San Diego County was discovered hoarding approximately 60 thin and ill dogs in her home, she was prosecuted, convicted, sentenced to three years’ probation, required to pay restitution to agencies tasked with rescuing the animals from her home, and banned from owning more than five animals.
- Two members of an “animal rescue” group in Long Beach were prosecuted, convicted, required to pay restitution, and sentenced to more than a year in jail each for hoarding animals in a warehouse.
We hope that the Merced County District Attorney’s Office will join the ranks of these and other jurisdictions that take animal abuse and neglect seriously by taking steps to prevent the suffering of more animals when they are found in the custody of hoarders.
In June 2013, officials in Merced County, California, seized approximately 300 ill and dying animals from a woman who was hoarding animals under the guise of operating an animal “sanctuary” called Last Hope Cat Kingdom. Of 300 animals, about 200 required immediate euthanasia because of the severity of their conditions. An additional 74 were found dead at the property, some still inside cages with trapped, terrified live animals. Despite clear, overwhelming evidence that included photos, eyewitness accounts, and veterinary statements illustrating horrific conditions at Last Hope, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office has chosen not to prosecute its operator.
During a hearing in December 2013, graphic photos were shown (exhibits) of dogs warehoused in travel carriers so small that they could not stand; weakened cats whose eyes and noses were caked and sealed with mucus; emaciated cats with hair loss; cats with open, oozing wounds; dead cats in travel carriers used as long-term housing; litterboxes full of feces and diarrhea that had splattered up the walls; mucus sprayed on walls and other surfaces from chronic sneezing; and blankets caked with feces and covered with flies. Veterinarian Jon Klingborg, who assisted in the raid, observed “cats [who] couldn’t lift their heads up because they were so sick and couldn’t breathe or see out of their eyes“ (emphasis added). One longtime cruelty investigator called conditions at Last Hope some of the worst he has seen in his 37-year career.
Three years ago, an additional 60 cats burned to death in a fire at Last Hope, another indicator of the hoarding syndrome (fire hazards are found at approximately 70 percent of animal hoarding cases).
Please politely let the Merced County district attorney hear from you. Remind him that without prosecution that at the very least includes a sentence banning future animal ownership and requiring psychological counseling and treatment, animal hoarders reoffend at a rate of nearly 100 percent. The safety of animals and the community is at stake without decisive prosecution of this and other cruelty-to-animals cases.
Send polite comments to:
The Honorable Larry D. Morse II
Merced County District Attorney’s Office
550 W. Main St.
Merced, CA 95340
Please feel free to use our sample letter, but remember that using your own words is always more effective.