BY TARYN FITSIK
COLONIE, N.Y.--A Colonie woman faces animal cruelty charges after close to 70 cats are removed from her home.
According to the Colonie Police Department, concerned neighbors contacted them regarding the condition of the cats living in Margaret Tomko's home on John Street.
Police say they made numerous attempts to resolve the problem, but Tomko refused them all. However, police finally got a search warrant, and the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society went in to get the animals.
"Unfortunately it's something we see with quite regularity," says Brad Shear, the humane society's executive director. "It's not even close to the first case we've seen like this."
The humane society says many of the rescued cats had fleas and were suffering from respiratory infections, because of the poor air quality of the home.
"The house was really filthy," says Shear. "The number of cats there was causing an ammonia smell, and because of all the urine, our staff had to go in there with masks, in order to be in there and operate, and try and catch all the cats."
"My first thought was how in the world is she walking around in there--70 cats in a house like that is a little bit absurd," adds Nick Murray, a neighbor.
Murray says he knew Tomko had pets, but didn't know it was that bad. The humane society says Tomko's behavior is typical of a condition called "animal hoarding".
"Typically, in cases like this, there are mental health issues that go along with acquiring so many cats that you can't even take care of them all," says Shear. "And at the same time, not realize the conditions you and those animals are living in."
"The decision was made to pursue criminal charges, in the hopes the criminal justice system would be able to court mandate some kind of counseling," adds Lieutenant Robert Winn of the Colonie Police Department.
For now, the cats are being nursed back to health, in hopes of finding them a better home.
"That's probably the best thing coming out of this, is that they will now be treated better," says Murray.
The Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society says their capacity is strained right now after taking in so many cats. However, the healthiest of the animals will be ready for adoption by next week.
Margaret Tomko will re-appear in court next Wednesday night.
341 Northern Blvd., Albany, NY 12204
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