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California woman arrested for elder, animal cruelty, after his father, 96, found in house with up to 700 rats, police say

connectVideo96-year-old man found living in inhumane conditions after neighbors reported the ‘house of horrors’

California woman arrested for assault and misdemeanor animal cruelty after authorities discovered her 96-year-old father living in an unhygienic environment, after a welfare check.

A California woman was arrested after authorities discovered her 96-year-old father and multiple pets living in a house in conditions described as “not fit for human living” with up to 700 rats inside, officials said Tuesday.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release, Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was last Thursday arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and misdemeanor animal cruelty after authorities visited the house in Ojai, located northwest of Los Angeles.

Police officers had initially visited the home Wednesday for a “check-the-welfare” call by Ventura County Adult Protective Services after Vandermaesen was suspected of not caring for her 74-year-old sister.

This undated photo booking by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office shows Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, of Ojai, California.
(Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

The sheriff’s office said when deputies contact with Vandermaesen and her sister, they did not want the deputies in the home, and “urged all residents in the location were helpful and friendly.” Delegates also called for the sisters’ 96-year-old father, but both daughters would only agree to the man in a wheelchair after refusing to allow deputies inside.

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When the officials came back to the house the next day, they discovered too much animal feces and urine matter” in the whole house, in addition to flooring and countertops are piled with trash. Eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, a parrot, and 55 pet rats eventually being removed from the house.

“The house of horror. It was dirty, there was paper on the floor, dog crap about. It was uninhabitable and very unhygienic.”

Neighbor Karin Rudio

“According to Ventura County Animal Control and the Humane Society of Ventura County – Ojai, they estimate the other 200 to 700 wild rats were still single and residing within the two-bedroom house, walls, garage, and garbage, located in the residence” the sheriff’s office said.

Photos released by the sheriff’s office to show the squalid conditions inside.

Eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, a parrot, and 55 pet rats were removed from the house.
(Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

“The house of horror,” neighbor Karin Rudio told KEYT-TV. “It was dirty, there was paper on the floor, dog crap about. It was uninhabitable and very unhygienic.”

Too much animal feces and urine matter” in the whole house, in addition to flooring and countertops are piled with trash.
(Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

Rudio said that rats from the house, ate all her flowers, and said hundreds of rats have come through her backyard and ruining her possessions.

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“Rats! Tame rats, I don’t know,” she said. “For some reason she is fascinated by rats.”

Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Joseph Preciado told the tv station that Vandermaesen was in charge of the care for her father and all the animals in the house. It was also not the first incident with Vandermaesen, with prior reports of these problems, the station reported.

Deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office discovered the scene on Thursday.
(Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

“That is the reason why we are able to her arrest for assault expenses, and also for the animal neglect charge,” Preciado said.

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Vandermaesen older father and her 74-year-old sister, who deputies described as a “victim” were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Government has no information on their conditions.

Officials said that the county authorities accepted the guardianship of the 96-year-old, and helped the sister for the temporary accommodation of the services. The city of Ojai later “yellow” tagged the house, where the “unlivable and a danger to the residents and the animals” by the conditions within.

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