Saturday, February 4, 2017

North Carolina: Animal rescuer Melissa Zimmerman, 49, convicted of multiple animal cruelty charges in connection to death of 15 cats

NORTH CAROLINA -- A volunteer for a local feral cat rescue group was convicted of several animal-cruelty charges after 15 dead cats were found on her property last year.

Melissa Zimmerman, 49, pleaded guilty Jan. 19 in Forsyth District Court to 15 counts of felony animal cruelty and five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, according to court papers. The charges came after Forsyth County Animal Control officers discovered the bodies of 15 cats on Snyder Ridge Lane on April 13.

A number of living feral cats and two dogs were also found on the property.

Tim Jennings, Forsyth County’s animal control director, said Tuesday that none of the living feral cats were euthanized. He said two of the cats were adopted and four cats and two dogs were transferred to a rescue group in Virginia.

Judge David Sipprell of Forsyth District Court gave Zimmerman three consecutive suspended sentences of five to 15 months in prison. He also placed her on 18 months of intensive supervised probation.

If she violates probation, she could serve a maximum of 45 months in prison. Sipprell also ordered Zimmerman to perform 100 hours of community service.

Zimmerman didn’t have malicious intent in neglecting the cats, her attorney, Chris Beechler, and Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding said.

“She is mortified about how this came about,” Beechler said.

According to Breeding and a search warrant in the case, Deputy J.M. Angel of the Forsyth County Animal Control got an anonymous tip that a house on Snyder Ridge Lane was abandoned and that there were dead cats on the property.

Angel knocked on the door and then tried unsuccessfully to reach the owner by phone. Another animal control officer arrived, and the two officers walked around the property. Angel eventually got a search warrant for the inside of the house.

The officers found at least 15 dead cats, Breeding said. It’s unclear what killed the cats because the bodies were too decomposed to conduct necropsies, Breeding said.

(Winston-Salem Journal - Jan 31, 2017)