A Miami-Dade detective recalled seeing “dead cats over dead cats over dead cats” during an animal cruelty investigation involving dozens of cats discovered inside of a Northeast Miami-Dade efficiency apartment where they were left to starve.
According to the Miami Herald, Cheryn Smilen, 54, had been well-known as a compassionate cat rescuer who would feed stray cats every night and hoped to find them homes. And that was what animal advocates thought, however Smilen had been capturing the cats and leaving them inside of a tiny apartment with no food or water. When neighbors complained about the horrific smell, investigators discovered the grisly scene.
Many of the cats were found dead – their bodies had decomposed. Other cats had eaten each other. All of the surviving felines were emaciated and barely clinging to life. Detective Judy Webb, an animal cruelty investigator, stated there were “dead cats over dead cats over dead cats.” The cats had been dead for at least four months.
“Cheryn locked and abandoned 30 cats in a small efficiency with no air, no food and no water for weeks until 18 of the cats died from agonizing and from a horrific starvation death. The place was filled with feces and urine. The 10 cats who were alive were emaciated and eating the dead remains of the 18 cats.”
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian was told by prosecutors there was no way that Smilen didn’t know the cats were suffering and dying. After hearing the evidence, Judge Milian refused to consider lowering a possible sentence for Smilen. If convicted of all charges, Smilen faces more than two years in prison. The trial is scheduled for December.
Rescuers in the area had repeatedly asked Smilen where the cats were being cared for, but she would never disclose their location. It wasn’t until February 2018 at a rented apartment, that neighbors had reported hearing cats crying and a heavy odor of ammonia. The air-conditioning unit in the apartment worked, however was not turned on and left the cats suffering in unbearable heat.
What makes the situation even more horrendous were the bags and cans of cat food stocked inside and outside of the home. None was ever given to the cats.
Smilen’s attorney told the court her client had been overwhelmed by depression and anxiety and had been caring for her elderly mother. No explanation has been offered why the cats were never fed.
Updates to follow.
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