Pet rescuer jailed for starving cats in Miami apartment

So-called pet rescuer has been sentenced to 364 days in jail for animal cruelty after hoarding cats and leaving them to starve to death in small South Florida apartment

MIAMI – A self-proclaimed animal rescuer has been sentenced to 364 days in prison for animal cruelty after she picks up cats and starves them to death in her South Florida apartment.

Cheryl Smilen, 56, has pleaded guilty and will now be banned from owning or trying to save animals, the Miami Herald reported.

“You have to stay away from animal rescue organizations,” Miami-Dade circuit judge Alberto Milian told her in a hearing Monday.

Smilen fed the street cats every night and began to herd them inside the efficient little apartment. Neighbors told investigators they often heard cats scratching and crying at windows, but they never saw Smilen. A horrible smell finally brought the police to the house almost three years ago.

Once inside, investigators found emaciated and malnourished cats, and bones littered the premises, suggesting some cats had eaten each other, the newspaper reported.

Miami-Dade Police Detective Judy Webb said in August 2018 she saw “dead cats on dead cats on dead cats.” The evidence suggested they had been dead for months.

“There’s no way she wouldn’t know this was happening,” Webb told the court.

“It’s hard for me to believe how humans can be so cruel,” the judge told him, adding that he had found no reason to believe the cats had not suffered.

Smilen cried on the podium saying “I know they did.”

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