41 cats rescued; hundreds of charges filed in animal cruelty case
AMBRIDGE , Beaver County — Two people are facing more than 400 charges after 41 cats were removed from an Ambridge home last week.
Joseph Stickles, 46, and Melissa Stickles, 38, are charged with multiple counts of aggravated cruelty to animals — a felony — after the Beaver County Humane Society seized dozens of cats from “deplorable” conditions this month.
Officers searched the home after receiving an anonymous tip from a neighbor who believed there to be at least six cats inside.
The home was littered with feces and covered in fleas, officers said in a criminal complaint. An “unbearable” odor required the use of masks.
Dozens of cats and kittens were found living in the basement without food or water with urine and feces lining the floor. Three were found dead, two of which were badly decomposed.
The Stickles also are facing charges of animal neglect and animal cruelty.
Susan Salyards, Humane Society executive director, said the Aug. 14 rescue was the second in recent weeks.
On July 23, 19 dogs — most of them puppies — were removed from a hoarding situation in Freedom, she said.
Dogs were flea-bitten and living in their own feces but were not malnourished, she said. All are being medically evaluated.
Five adult dogs, including two females that recently birthed litters of six and eight, were rescued. The dogs are a mix of shepherd, husky and elkhound.
“The living conditions were deplorable,” said Donna Bucek, Humane Society associate director. “Animals should not have been housed there.”
The state dog warden, acting on complaints from neighbors, notified Celina Kelly, the local humane officer, who investigated.
The Humane Society also received a call from an anonymous source, Salyards said, to investigate the Ambridge home, where the caller reported seeing at least six cats.
The past couple of weeks, however, neighbors had not seen anyone at the house, Kelly said.
No one answered when Kelly visited the first time nor responded to posted information to contact the Humane Society. A search warrant was obtained Wednesday, Salyards said.
“When the officer opened a basement door, 41 cats came streaming out of the house. It probably was a surreal site,” she said.
The cats, malnourished and “extremely flea-ridden,” Salyards said, will be quarantined for at least 10 days — typical when living in a hoarding situation — as they are being assessed. She described them as “nice cats,” not shy or feral as initially thought.
The animals are now healthy and ready for adoption. Anyone interested can call the Humane Society shelter at 724-775-5801, ext. 114.