Sometimes people joke about becoming a "cat lady," in their old age. However, when a person actually does become a cat lady, or more accurately a person with 50 dogs and cats crammed into what the Spokesman Review describes as a "squalid bungalow," it's not really a laughing matter. It's terribly sad. And it can also result in charges being filed.
Such is the case with Spokane's Laneva Marsha Erskine, a 57-year-old woman who now faces nine misdemeanor charges of animal neglect stemming from a February raid at her home. According to a story in the Spokesman Review, the workers who carried out the raid were forced to wear hazardous material suits and respirators "to combat the heavy stench."
What they found was alarming, in addition to disgusting. Erskine's cats, which she says were strays, suffered severe dehydration, weight loss, curled toenails and severe flea infestations, as well as upper respiratory infections and hair loss, according to the Spokesman Review's story.
A description of the squalor:
The tiny home was built in 1929 and has just 288 square feet of space upstairs. Most of the animals were confined to stacked cages. Some were kept in the dark with insufficient ventilation, and many had burns caused by urine and other physical problems, according to a City of Spokane news release.
Adding insult to animal injury, the paper also reports SpokAnimal, a non-profit humane organization and adoption center in Spokane had apparently been fielding complaints about Erskine and her animals for nearly 30 years.
As is usually the case with a story like this, sadness abounds. Erskine says her elderly husband was hospitalized with a broken leg, and she didn't have the ability to clean up the home - or the money to take the stray cats to SpokAnimal herself and be faced with a fee.
Spokane Assistant City Prosecutor Matthew Folsom is quoted in the Spokesman Review from a prepared statement, proclaiming, "Mistreating animals won't be tolerated."