There isn't likely to be a single person on the planet who thinks packing a house with 92 cats is a sanitary -- or sane -- condition. So Magistrate Wade Padgett's decision Wednesday to keep Denise Beausoleil from owning any more cats for six months is at best a minimal response to her sad case.
When Columbia County Animal Care and Control officers acted on a tip "from a concerned friend" and checked out Beausoleil's Springlakes home Feb. 10, they were horrified by what they found. Animal Control Director Linda Fulmer said it's the worst she's ever seen; Fulmer marked her 28th anniversary with the agency Wednesday, so she's seen a lot.
In court on Wednesday, Beausoleil said she understood how bad it had gotten, but she still lacks a sense of proportion. A reporter in the courtroom quotes Beausoleil as saying she was "overwhelmed" when a cat-sitter allowed the males and females of her original cat population of 30 to intermingle and breed.
Now, hang on: The original population was 30? Even under the best conditions, who in their right mind would keep 30 cats in a house? Yuck.
According to Fulmer, there's no limit to the number of pets anyone can keep in a Columbia County home, as long as the animals are provided safe, sanitary conditions. Such ordinances do a good job of ensuring the animals' welfare. But who is looking out for the mental and physical health of animal-hoarding people?
Fortunately for Beausoleil, that unnamed family friend intervened. Turning her in to Animal Care and Control may seem harsh, but it was a compassionate response to a situation Beausoleil admits was in a downward spiral.
Padgett's sentence isn't just compassionate -- under the circumstances it may seem downright lenient. As many as 22 of the highly bred Persians may have to be euthanized because of illness, and Beausoleil's only penalty is to repay Animal Control for their heroic work in rescuing her herd of felines.
Then again, living in a home that until Feb. 10 was a litter-box for 92 cats is Beausoleil's private, self-inflicted punishment, and is undoubtedly worse than most of the punishments convicted criminals have received in recent history. In fact, the courts would reject as cruel and unusual a sentence that required a convicted criminal to live in such conditions, and Beausoleil apparently has done so for at least two years.
Perhaps, then, Padgett's relatively light sentence includes credit for "time served." Hopefully Beausoleil will see the six-month, cat-free probation as a way to not only clean up her home, but to clear her own mind about proper care of animals -- and of herself.
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