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Monday, Feb 13, 2006County: Dane
Defendant/Suspect: Lynn W. Rettig
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
Lynn Rettig was given her first kitten when she was 5, and she knew right then her life would never be the same.
"Annie" seemed almost human - so capable of love yet also independent. Rettig was smitten.
At 18, she owned three cats, a perfectly reasonable number, she says today. Then things got out of control.
By the time a city of Middleton building inspector declared her house uninhabitable due to feline filth in Feb 2006, Rettig owned 40 to 45 cats. The exact number eludes her.
"It's sometimes hard to keep count," said Rettig, 48, a part-time college student who is unemployed. "They move so fast."
The Dane County Humane Society, acting under contract with Dane County, seized 42 cats and is housing them until a March 20 custody hearing. Rettig, who may face animal cruelty charges, can't imagine life without her pets.
"They're my children, not of my blood but of my heart," she said.
The stench of cat urine and feces overwhelmed authorities when they entered Rettig's home Feb. 13.
They had gone there after being contacted by Robert Rettig, Lynn Rettig's brother, who was concerned about his sister's welfare. The house was owned by their mother, who lived there until moving in October to a nursing home.
According to a police report, most of the rooms were covered with cat hair and had areas of cat feces overflowing litter boxes.
In one room, "only the portion immediately inside the swing of the bedroom door was clear (of feces)," the report stated. "The feces appeared to be at a depth of one inch to an estimated six inches against the far walls."
The bedroom where Rettig's mother had slept was strewn with debris and cat feces. The toilet was broken and the bathtub was filled with several inches of putrid brown liquid, according to Rettig's brother.
Lynn Rettig was ordered to vacate the premises immediately.
In an interview, Rettig said she acquired the cats gradually, and that all but four of them are from the same family. Years ago, when she lived with her parents in Madison, someone dumped two cats - one male, one female - in the neighborhood. The cats gravitated to the Rettigs' backyard.
"Kittens started happening," she said.
Rettig, who has never married, said she and her mother gradually had the cats spayed and neutered and declawed. The last kittens were born in 2003.
"I didn't want to acquire all these cats, but once I did, I had the responsibility to care for them," she said. Giving any of them away would have been too hard emotionally, she said.
"A lot of people don't like to think of cats as children, but when that's all you have . . ." Her voice trailed off.
Asked about the state of her home, she said there were "a couple of rooms I couldn't keep up with." She didn't notice a stench.
"I'm not the world's greatest housekeeper, period," she said.
Robert Rettig, 51, a theater designer in New Richmond, calls his sister a cat hoarder.
"She's a textbook case," he said, adding that his mother, who has Alzheimer's disease, also had an unhealthy propensity to collect cats.
In 2003, when Lynn Rettig lived with her parents in Madison, the city took the elder Rettigs to court on charges of violating health and sanitation ordinances. The family was ordered to clean its home and to reduce its cat population to no more than five by March 1, 2004.
Instead, Rettig and her mother bought the Middleton home and moved there with their cats in February of 2004.
Robert Rettig said his sister boasted to her new neighbors that she had outsmarted the city of Madison.
Shortly thereafter, Madison health officials sought an ordinance to limit the number of animals per household. A public outcry killed it. Middleton officials will take up the same issue at Tuesday's meeting of the city's license and ordinance committee.
Cheri Carr, a humane officer at the Dane County Humane Society, said the organization sees a couple of cases of animal hoarding each year. The typical hoarder is single, elderly and female, and the animals being hoarded usually are cats in poor health, she said.
Lynn Rettig is an unusual case in that she is relatively young and her cats are in reasonable health given the "abhorrent" living conditions, Carr said. She has forwarded her report to the Dane County District Attorney's Office, which has not made a charging decision. Carr would like to see Rettig charged with multiple criminal counts of animal cruelty.
"You can't live in 10 inches of feces and call it humane," she said.
The goal is to get Rettig help through court-ordered probationary conditions, Carr said.
Rettig said she is not familiar with the term "cat hoarder."
She has a bachelor's degree in music from Edgewood College and is taking classes at UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College in hopes of being accepted to a master's degree program in public management. One family friend, who asked not to be identified, called her "supremely intelligent."
Given the emotional strain she's been under the last three weeks, Rettig said she voluntarily submitted to an evaluation at the Dane County Mental Health Center. She said she was told she is holding up well and that she is not a threat to herself or others.
Rettig said she's planning to move to an apartment in a Madison suburb that limits tenants to two cats.
She hopes she can get at least two of her 42 cats back.
She starts crying at the thought.
"How I'll choose two, I don't know."
|A 3,600-square-foot West Side house that once was home to as many as 150 cats will be torn down to create two single-family lots, the Plan Commission decided Monday night.|
Lynn W. Rettig, 48, former occupant of the house at 5402 Whitcomb Drive, recently moved to Larkspur Court in Middleton, where she apparently kept more than 40 cats and was charged this spring in Dane County Circuit Court with providing improper animal shelter.
Susan Peters of Oconomowoc, who bought the house March 31, said in a Plan Commission filing it would be torn down because the smell of the cats that lived there remains.
|Source: Madison.Com - May 16, 2006|
Update posted on Jan 2, 2008 - 9:34PM
|A Middleton woman whose home containing more than 40 cats was determined to be uninhabitable was charged Friday with two counts of providing improper animal shelter.|
The charges against Lynn W. Rettig, 48, are misdemeanors. One of the charges is related to conditions in 2003 at Rettig's former house on Whitcomb Drive in Madison, while the other concerns conditions at her house on Larkspur Court in Middleton earlier this year, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.
City animal control and health officers visited the Whitcomb Drive home several times in 2003 and found more than 40 cats and deep piles of cat feces throughout the home, the complaint states.
Rettig later moved to the home on Larkspur and took the cats with her. In February, Dane County humane officers found similar conditions and more than 40 cats at the Middleton home, according to the complaint.
The Dane County Humane Society was awarded custody of the cats after a hearing last month in Dane County Circuit Court. Rettig is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
|Source: Madison.Com - April 15, 2006|
Update posted on Jan 2, 2008 - 9:32PM
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