Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16822
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull), cat
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Judge(s): Kevin Higgins

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Tuesday, Nov 9, 2010

County: Washoe

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted

» Lauretta Anne Nawojski
» Jackie Pearl Haney

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

A pair of senior citizen sisters have been charged with animal cruelty after authorities removed 44 cats and four dogs from their Spanish Springs home, many needing emergency medical care, officials said.

Lauretta Anne Nawojski, 71, and her sister, Jackie Pearl Haney, 72, were released from the Washoe County Jail Wednesday morning after posting bail following their Tuesday arrest on suspicion of animal cruelty. Nawojski was booked additionally for resisting a public official.

The county's animal services said the animals are taking up two and a half rooms in their facility, which could mean other stray cats won't get saved.

Nawojski called the allegations false and "stupid." She contends the animals were all in good condition except for some cats suffering colds due to the recent chilly temperatures. She said she and her sister are fighting the charges, and are trying to regain custody of the animals.

"We are not guilty," she said during an interview.

Nevada Humane Society Executive Director Bonney Brown said this case is an example of the roughly three cases of animal hoarding investigated per year in Washoe County. She said a veterinarian is currently examining each animal -- their fee ultimately being paid by taxpayers through the county's animal services budget because the animals' seizure was by court order.

The felines' conditions range from a kitten whose eyes are sealed shut due to an infection to emaciated and elderly cats with dental problems.

Brown said Nawojski adopted seven cats from her organization, and several others from local cat rescues and cat shows.

According to county ordinance, residents in congested areas are limited to owning seven cats and three dogs.

Nawojski said she feels she is being punished for saving stray cats from shelter deaths. "They tell people if you don't adopt the cats, they're going to put them down," she said. "I'm just trying to save the cats."

Brown said her agency and animal services last week received an anonymous letter alleging that Nawojski was hoarding animals that weren't getting fed or properly cared for. That sparked the investigation, she said.

All of the animals had names, said Nawojski, who said her only job is caring for them. She said she and her sister were very close to the pets and tried to do a good job being their owners.

Deputy Armando Avina said deputies were called Tuesday afternoon to the sisters' home in the 6500 block of Chula Vista after Nawojski refused to allow animal control officers inside her home to execute a search warrant. He said many of the cats were suffering from upper respiratory infections, malnutrition, various diseases and eye herpes.

Deputies said animal feces covered the floor and walls, and when cats ran by their feet kicked up the excrement. Fire officials were also called to ventilate the home due to the intense ammonia smell from cat urine, so that officials could safely search the property. Nawojski disputes the deputies' descriptions of her home, calling them "lies."

Brown said this case was not the worst local animal hoarding incident she's seen. One woman owned 60 cats and another owned 200 rabbits.

Case Updates

Lauretta Nawojski, 71, and her sister, Jackie Pearl Haney, 72, pled guilty on Tuesday to one count of failing to provide adequate care to an animal. According to the Reno Gazette, Nawojski was admonished several times by Sparks Justice of the Peace, Kevin Higgins, for continued outbursts in court. The sisters were given six-month jail term sentences. Justice Higgins suspended the sentences but ordered Nawojski to serve five days in jail and go through a mental health evaluation. Haney was placed on four days of house arrest.

Washoe County allows residents to have up to seven cats and four dogs over the age of four months old. The sisters had 44 cats and 4 dogs when animal control officers came to their three-bedroom home in Spanish Springs on November 9, 2010. According to Washoe County Regional Animal Services Director, Mitch Schneider, the sisters' case is an extreme case of animal hoarding.

Animal hoarding is considered a disease by mental health experts. The Animal League Defense Fund states on their website that 72 percent of hoarders are women. Cat hoarding is the most common type because they are easier to hide indoors. Schneider's staff receives reports as a welfare concern or a complaint that someone has too many animals. Animal control officers are sent out to the residence to assess the situation.

"It doesn't take the officer long to determine the signs of tell-tale hoarding," Schneider says. Animal control officers look for excessive smells and excessive amounts of material. Cat urine contains ammonia and the smell can be overwhelming with multiple cats.

Schneider says: "The ammonia smell was so intense [in the Spanish Springs residence] that the fire department put in their big fans to clean up the air so that they could be in the building. There was fecal matter on every square inch of the house. No one was cleaning up after these cats."

The goal for Schneider and his staff is to make sure the hoarder gets help. He says most animal hoarders are cooperative. They understand that they need help and are willing to cooperate. Schneider says: "If you take away all of their animals, they start [collecting them] over again. Some people are so far gone into denial that the courts have to mandate a psych evaluation. It's no different than someone with an alcohol problem or a gambling problem."

Animal control officers issue a citation if the person is in violation of the animal limit regardless of whether they volunteer to correct the problem and seek help. This ensures that the process is mandated. Schneider says only one or two cases end up in court each year but each of those cases cost taxpayers money. This particular case has cost taxpayers close to $50,000 dollars and while the sisters have been ordered to pay restitution, it most likely will not happen.

Schneider says: "In this case, the woman saw herself as a victim. She told the officer inside the house that she should kill her when the officer was trying to get her to sign over the animals. The woman resisted arrest and is not cognizant of the problem. It's more costly for the courts to handle it."

Before the sisters can have some of their animals back or be able to have animals again, Nowojski has to go through psychological evaluation and treatment. The home will need to be evaluated and inspected to ensure it is a safe environment for animals. "The court intends to allow her to have animals up to the legal limit," Schneider says. However, he says they are hearing reports that she is taking in animals again. If Nowojski continues her hoarding behavior, Justice Higgins could have her committed to make sure she undergoes treatment.
Source: - Jun 2, 2011
Update posted on Jul 15, 2011 - 10:27PM 


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