• Investigators believe some cats had eaten each other 
  • Police found several bodies of cats in different stages of decomposition
  • Neighbors reported hearing scratching noises and cats crying

A self-styled pet rescuer in South Florida has been sentenced for hoarding cats and letting some of them die out of starvation inside her apartment.

56-year-old Cheryn Smilen pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and has been sentenced to 364 days in prison, reported Associated Press. Smilen will now be banned from rescuing or owning animals.

“You have to stay away from animal-rescue organizations,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian told her during a Monday hearing.

Smilen fed street cats and started hoarding them inside a small efficiency apartment. Neighbors reported they often heard the cats scratching and crying at the windows. Police were eventually called to check the apartment after a foul odor started coming out of it three years ago.

Police Detective Judy Webb testified in 2018 that she saw “dead cats over dead cats over dead cats.”

Investigators found malnourished cats and bones littered inside the apartment, suggesting that some cats had eaten one another.

“These cats had been dead for months, not weeks. Some of them were in different stages of decomposition. There’s no way she didn’t know this was happening,” said Webb at a 2019 hearing, reported the New York Post.

To make matters worse, investigators found stacks of cat food cans and piles of food bags stocked inside and outside the apartment but, Smilen had not been feeding the starving animals. Once inside, investigators found the home was caked with cat feces and smelled of cat urine. The air-condition inside was in working condition but was not turned on, leaving the cats in hot temperature, reported the Miami Herald.

Assistant State Attorney Helen Page Schwartz and Chief Assistant Kathleen Hoague prosecuted the case.

“You really got a just sentence. There is no reason to believe these animals didn’t suffer a great deal,” judge Milian said to Smilen on Monday, reported The Herald. To which, Smilen, crying while standing at the podium, said, “I know they did.”

“It’s hard for me to believe how humans can be so cruel,” added Milian.

In May, officers responding to the untimely death of a woman stumbled upon a shocking case of animal cruelty after they found 53 cats and a dog inside a home. Police said 12 of the cats were already dead inside the home.

Cats and dogs provide other benefits to their owners, scientists are keen to point out
Representational image AFP / Etienne TORBEY