The owner of a private cat sanctuary who was evicted last week now faces charges for her actions during the eviction as well as five separate animal cruelty charges.
Jean Wailes Michaud, 60, of Back Creek Road in Dowell faces multiple animal cruelty charges, including: three counts of failure to provide her cats with necessary veterinary care, air and space while they were in her custody; one count of depriving the cats of necessary sustenance and inflicting unnecessary suffering or pain on them; and one count of inflicting unnecessary suffering and pain on cats in her custody, all of which each have a maximum penalty of 90 days incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
Those charges were filed by Animal Control Supervisor Craig Dichter, who spent the day of the eviction and the following day rounding up dozens of cats found both in Michaud’s house and outside. Michaud kept a 501(c)(3) cat sanctuary, St. Francis of Assisi Cat Sanctuary Inc., on her property, claiming in the past to take in and care for countless sick and injured cats and kittens. On the day of the eviction, Dichter and another animal control officer were able to capture 46 cats and transport them to an emergency barn shelter at the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville, where they will stay until they can be adopted or taken by rescue groups, or until the county no longer can keep them.
“It’s a bad case in that we did find a deceased animal in the house and some of the cats did need medical attention,” Jones said. “The cats were all seen by a physician.”
But the charges date back before the eviction. In early January, during one of several attempted evictions where a stay was ordered to postpone it, Dichter was called to Michaud’s residence to inspect it because of the sanctuary, charging documents state. He smelled a strong odor of cat urine and saw a large amount of feces covering the floors inside the house, though no cats appeared emaciated, injured or deceased. He ordered her to clean the residence before their next inspection. On March 4, he returned and found the same conditions, along with a strong odor coming from the space under the house. Four days later, he returned again and found the house clean.
During last week’s eviction, however, he again smelled a strong odor of cat urine and found feces throughout the residence. One cat was found dead in Michaud’s bedroom, and two kittens had one bulging eye each that had been perforated. They both were examined by Dr. Jessica Craig at Prince Frederick Animal Hospital and found to be flea-infested and suffering from an ear infection and upper respiratory problems, charging documents state.
In a shed located on the property, officers found more feces and cats, including one that kept walking in circles, later diagnosed with a severe ear infection, neurologic abnormalities including head tilt and circling to the right, upper respiratory infection and flea infestation. The vet also noted the cat was blind due to damage to both eyes and recommended euthanasia would be the most humane action to take.
“It’s sad. Our hearts go out to these cats,” Jones said. “It’s just impossible for one person to care for that many cats.”
Jones added that the county has been reaching out to animal rescue groups both locally and nationally to try and save the sheltered cats from potential euthanasia in the long term, but admitted, “It’s just hard to get anyone to take that many cats.”