Acting on a tip, authorities discovered and seized sixty Maine Coon cats kept under appalling conditions in a house in Harrison, New York. The animals were being bred so their kittens could be sold for as much as $1,100 each for the pet trade. Most of the cats had been confined several to a cage. Many were thin and suffered from upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, ear infections, diarrhea, parasites and ring worm. An additional sign of neglect was massive mats down to the skin in the cats' fur. The building reeked, and there were urine stains and feces all over the carpet.
The business, in existence for several years, was operated by Ruth Sonneville under the name Charlemaine Maine Coon Cattery, and the offspring were being advertised for sale over the internet. The company's web site described how Sonneville had previously bred German shepherds and Great Danes, but had switched to Maine Coon cats after moving to a smaller building; shortly after the bust, the web site was removed from the internet. Apparently internet sales of both cats and dogs are increasing dramatically.
In this case, a potential buyer called authorities after seeing overcrowding and smelling an overwhelming stench. Frequently, commercial breeders don't want customers to see the squalid conditions or the tragic state of the breeding animals so they either conduct business with potential buyers at locations that are separate from the breeding facility-or they sell their animals based on internet photographs and ship them directly to their new homes.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not require commercial breeders such as this who are selling animals retail to be licensed and regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act. The local District Attorney's Office has decided not to prosecute Ms. Sonneville though she will likely face fines from the Health and Building Departments.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Westchester, the group that conducted the seizure, has provided veterinary care for the cats and is seeking financial support for their care and adoptive homes for the animals. Mimi Einstein, SPCA President noted, "Obviously, Ms. Sonneville was not equipped to handle this number of animals. Every single cat there wound up suffering in some regard because of neglect. The conditions on the premises were completely out of hand."