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Case ID: 18272
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat
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Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011

County: Calvert

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Jean Wailes Michaud

The owner of a private cat sanctuary who was evicted last week now faces charges for her actions during the eviction as well as five separate animal cruelty charges.

According to charging documents, Jean Wailes Michaud, 60, of Back Creek Road in Dowell reportedly put up a struggle during a court-ordered eviction on the morning of July 13, allegedly becoming disorderly, shouting that the four Calvert County Sheriff's Office deputies sent to her home had no right to be on the property and attempting to prevent them from gaining access to her property.

Dfc. Eddie Bradley, who filed the charges, wrote in charging papers that Michaud went into her garage, where officers tried to calm her down and told her she could enter her home to obtain personal belongings, but she continued to "shout and cause a scene." Dfc. Richard Hawkins placed her under arrest, and he, Bradley and 1st Sgt. Timothy Buckmaster all struggled to handcuff her. Because of her alleged struggle, Buckmaster received a laceration to his thumb. She proceeded to fight, Bradley alleged, as they placed her in a sheriff's office cruiser and secured her seat belt, and she "continued to try to lean forward as if she was trying to exit the vehicle even after the seat belt was secured," charging documents state. On the way to the Calvert County Detention Center, she continued to scream for help from multiple individuals standing along the driveway watching the ongoing scene, and threatened to take civil action against the sheriff's office with the aid of multiple attorneys.

"She was hollering and screaming, and we pled with her," said Lt. Steve Jones, commander of the Calvert Investigative Team for the sheriff's office. "We said we don't want to make it any worse than it is. Unfortunately, we had to arrest her. She was flailing her arms around."

For that incident, she was charged with second-degree assualt, facing a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine; disorderly conduct, for a maximum of 60 days and a $500 fine; resisting arrest, for a maximum of three years and a $5,000 fine; obstructing and hindering; and a failure to obey a lawful order, for up to 60 days and a $500 fine.

She also faces multiple animal cruelty charges, including: three counts of failure to provide her cats with necessary veterinary care, air and space while they were in her custody; one count of depriving the cats of necessary sustenance and inflicting unnecessary suffering or pain on them; and one count of inflicting unnecessary suffering and pain on cats in her custody, all of which each have a maximum penalty of 90 days incarceration and a $1,000 fine.

Those charges were filed by Animal Control Supervisor Craig Dichter, who spent the day of the eviction and the following day rounding up dozens of cats found both in Michaud's house and outside. Michaud kept a 501(c)(3) cat sanctuary, St. Francis of Assisi Cat Sanctuary Inc., on her property, claiming in the past to take in and care for countless sick and injured cats and kittens. On the day of the eviction, Dichter and another animal control officer were able to capture 46 cats and transport them to an emergency barn shelter at the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville, where they will stay until they can be adopted or taken by rescue groups, or until the county no longer can keep them.

"It's a bad case in that we did find a deceased animal in the house and some of the cats did need medical attention," Jones said. "The cats were all seen by a physician."

But the charges date back before the eviction. In early January, during one of several attempted evictions where a stay was ordered to postpone it, Dichter was called to Michaud's residence to inspect it because of the sanctuary, charging documents state. He smelled a strong odor of cat urine and saw a large amount of feces covering the floors inside the house, though no cats appeared emaciated, injured or deceased. He ordered her to clean the residence before their next inspection. On March 4, he returned and found the same conditions, along with a strong odor coming from the space under the house. Four days later, he returned again and found the house clean.

During last week's eviction, however, he again smelled a strong odor of cat urine and found feces throughout the residence. One cat was found dead in Michaud's bedroom, and two kittens had one bulging eye each that had been perforated. They both were examined by Dr. Jessica Craig at Prince Frederick Animal Hospital and found to be flea-infested and suffering from an ear infection and upper respiratory problems, charging documents state.

In a shed located on the property, officers found more feces and cats, including one that kept walking in circles, later diagnosed with a severe ear infection, neurologic abnormalities including head tilt and circling to the right, upper respiratory infection and flea infestation. The vet also noted the cat was blind due to damage to both eyes and recommended euthanasia would be the most humane action to take.

"It's sad. Our hearts go out to these cats," Jones said. "It's just impossible for one person to care for that many cats."

Jones added that the county has been reaching out to animal rescue groups both locally and nationally to try and save the sheltered cats from potential euthanasia in the long term, but admitted, "It's just hard to get anyone to take that many cats."

Michaud's trial for both sets of charges is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Aug. 26 in Calvert County District Court.

References

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