Woman with 100 cats stands trial


An Oakland attorney accused of animal abuse testified today that she did the best she could to care for the more than 100 cats who lived in her home.

Taking the witness stand in her trial in Alameda County Superior Court, Jan Van Dusen, 62, said she provided food and medical care for the cats “to the best of my ability.”

Oakland Animal Control officers who raided Van Dusen’s house on Magnolia Street in Oakland in October 2011 said they found about 100 cats, most of them feral, including 11 cats that were dead.

Another 18 cats had to be euthanized because they couldn’t be treated, animal officials said.

Van Dusen contents that she didn’t do anything illegal and that she took in sick and homeless cats that no one else wanted.

Van Dusen, who could face up to three years in state prison if she’s convicted of the animal abuse charge against her, first stood trial last year but a mistrial was declared when jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting her.

She has now waived her right to have a jury hear her case so Judge Gloria Rhynes is conducting a court trial and will decide her fate.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Tim Burr, Van Dusen admitted that her house smelled like urine because of all the cats that lived there but “not that much.” Van Dusen also admitted that her home “smelled like feces.”

She conceded that some of the cats she was caring for suffered from diarrhea but claimed that the diarrhea problem spread only because of the negligence of a friend she had hired to help take care of the cats.

Van Dusen said she had a rough idea of how many cats were in her house but didn’t know the exact number because “they move” and are hard to count.

Van Dusen also admitted that she was “pretty overwhelmed” by the cats when Animal Control officers raided her home. She said:

“I knew I was in the middle of an epidemic.”

Van Dusen said she kept the cats’ medical records in her refrigerator. When Burr asked her if that’s because the refrigerator was the only place where the cats wouldn’t urinate on the records, Van Dusen said it was because the refrigerator “was the most reliable place.”

Van Dusen will continue testifying when her trial resumes on Thursday.

— Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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