Larry Kruger, a man who once loved cats so much he spent $28,000 in one year on vet bills, is going to jail on charges of animal cruelty.
A Pensacola, Florida resident, Kruger, 62, started collecting cats when he participated in cat rescues and ran what he called a "cat shelter." At one point he had 161 cats living in his home.
Neighbours were alarmed by the stench and alerted local Animal Control. On March 22, Kruger was arrested on eight felony charges of causing pain and suffering to animals and 161 misdemeanour charges of animal cruelty. The cats in his care were were sick with intestinal diseases and parasites. The home was overrun with feces. Dead cats awaiting cremation were stockpiled in the freezer.
Kruger pleaded guilty on October 26 to felony and misdemeanour animal cruelty charges. On November 22 he was sentenced to 30 days in county jail and a further six years on probation. During his probation he is not allowed to have cats or any other pets, and he must undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Kruger's attorney said Kruger may be a hoarder, an obsessive-compusive disorder popularized by the A&E television series Hoarders. In Episode 28 of Hoarders, Series 3, an elderly Indiana woman named Vula has so many sickly cats in her home she's lost count and track of them all. In a very graphic and disturbing clip, a rescuer shows her a tiny orange kitten, its body frozen in rigor mortis. "God, I'm sorry, I don't remember", she says. Other cats found in the home have been mummified under piles of garbage. Kittens are found dead, their umbilical cords still attached.
Animal hoarding was studied by a group of researchers who collaborated from 1997-2006 to define and better understand the problem. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC), provides a list of scholarly articles about the subject on their website.
One very noteworthy case of animal hoarding was the subject of a 2009 book co-written by HARC scholar Dr. Arnold Arluke: Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and her 552 Dogs. Barbara Erickson claimed to love dogs and referred to the more than 500 dogs in her home as her "babies". Yet they lived in unthinkable conditions: crowded, filthy, underfed, unsocialized, ungroomed, rarely taken to a vet. When rescuers finally arrived, half-eaten puppies were found. Nearly 100 of the dogs rescued from Barbara Erickson had to be euthanized, some because they had been driven insane by their living conditions.
She was tried and convicted of several counts of animal cruelty (all misdemeanors). She spent a few weeks in jail and, like Larry Kruger, was sentenced to probation.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year.
The HSUS favors jail time both as a punitive measure and recommends that convicted animal hoarders be sentenced to mandatory psychological evaluation and treatment.
Photo Credit: Animal Planet