And when they returned Friday, after building an animal abuse case against the couple, they weren’t expecting to find 50 more cats — all dead in a back yard shed.
Marcia Martha Dinardo, 67, and Thomas Lee Crory, 59, both are charged with 41 counts of animal abuse and a count of conspiracy from the first incident — and now will face additional charges from the horrific scene officers discovered Friday, Officer Christine Luffey said.
On April 21, police went to the house in the 100 block of 45th Street after Ms. Dinardo reported that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend, Mr. Crory. Police saw “assault marks” on her face, Officer Luffey said, and took Mr. Crory into custody.
But the officers also noticed that the brick row house smelled of ammonia and animal feces and soon discovered that dozens of cats were wandering around the house, Officer Luffey said.
“There is no running water. I would walk on the carpeting and it would squish, just saturated with urine and feces,” said Officer Luffey, who handles many animal-abuse cases for the police department.
Animal Care & Control officers arrived that night and removed 20 cats, but when the officers returned the next day to take the rest, Ms. Dinardo wouldn’t let them in, Officer Luffey said.
A few days later, Officer Luffey, Zone 2 officers, and members of the Homeless Cat Management Team returned again with a search warrant. They rescued 21 cats over the next two days, bringing the total to 41.
Most of the cats were taken to Humane Animal Rescue, where many required medical attention, Officer Luffey said. Eight of them were in such poor shape that they had to be euthanized, she added.
Over the next month, Officer Luffey and other officers compiled detailed veterinary records for the rescued cats, and on Monday they filed animal cruelty charges against Ms. Dinardo and Mr. Crory for each cat. Officers returned to the house Thursday, armed with search and arrest warrants.
The couple were not home, but officers found an adult cat and two kittens.
“I picked up one of the kittens. It was alive but listless, breathing heavily, polluted with fleas, and dehydrated,” Officer Luffey said, adding that the kitten was taken by Animal Care & Control but the other two ran off.
On Friday, Officer Luffey, Zone 2 officers and Animal Care workers again returned to the house.
Mr. Crory and Ms. Dinardo were at home, in addition to the two remaining cats—and a dead cat in the attic. Then Officer Luffey noticed a cage and a shed in the back yard.
“We started to open garbage bags, coffee cans and plastic containers,” Officer Luffey said. “We were horrified by what we found. There were over 50 dead cats and kittens.”
The scene was so disturbing that some officers broke down in tears, Officer Luffey said.
Police plan to file additional animal cruelty charges against Mr. Crory and Ms. Dinardo. Officer Luffey said they were taken to a hospital for mental health evaluations, but they were back home Friday night.
Mr. Crory answered a reporter’s knock on his door but Ms. Dinardo quickly pulled him back inside, shouting, “Get in! Get in!”
Adam Brandolph, 35, who has lived across the street from Ms. Dinardo and Mr. Crory for nine years, said he rarely saw Ms. Dinardo leave the house.
“They’re very quiet, they keep to themselves,” he said. “It was a shock to learn about the situation a few months ago and it was doubly shocking to learn of the issue today. I hope they get help.”
Another neighbor who wished to remain anonymous said the couple had initially been friendly when he moved in a few years ago. Ms. Dinardo used to sit on the front porch, but she soon retreated into the house permanently. The neighbor said he occasionally saw cats in the alleyway and had noticed a smell from the back yard but thought it was a sewage problem.
In 2014, Ms. Dinardo and Mr. Crory were fined for having too many pets within city limits, no proof of rabies vaccination, and unsanitary conditions, according to online court records.
They face a hearing July 19 in Municipal Court on the first 41 animal abuse charges and the conspiracy count.
Officer Luffey said the scene Friday was one of the worst she had ever investigated. She also noted that there has been an uptick in such cases recentlhy — just last week, she and other officers removed 42 cats from a man’s house in Hazelwood.
“I just want everyone in the public to know: if you know someone doing something like this, you need to turn them in,” Officer Luffey said. “Animals suffer in silence. We need to be their voices.”
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - July 7, 2017)