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A New Jersey woman can still face trial and possible imprisonment after prosecutors say she left her apartment for a longer period of time and leave in more than two dozen starving cats — whose drive to survive eventually forced some of them to eat each other.
Jill Petruska, of Nutley, said that she was away from her apartment to care for a sick family member and had been held back by the care of her cats on a day in 2016, when the researchers, who were responding to reports of a bad smell, discovered more than 20 cats living in terrible conditions.
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Officials discovered 13 cats were still alive and at least 12 had died. The number of the deceased was difficult to estimate, because parts of animals were found scattered about the apartment, the officials said.
The living cats were “seriously neglected, and unhealthy,” the researchers said of the scene, NJ.com reported, citing a decision made by a court of appeal on Monday. The dead cats had seemingly “is cluttered and occupied by the living cats.”
Jill Petruska, of Nutley, N. J., was charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty after dozens of living and dead cats found in her apartment in 2016.
According to a veterinarian, who testified to a grand jury about the case, some of the cats in the apartment, which had given birth ate their own offspring to survive.
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The cats were also very thirsty, as toilet bowls inside of the apartment were found “completely dry, the cats have enjoyed all of the water.” The foul smell coming from the apartment was so strong that the police had the fire department’s ventilation equipment and wear hazardous materials suits when they entered.
Petruska is charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty. A judge in 2018 disagreed with the plaintiffs and granted Petruska’s application for admission into a pretrial program that forbade her from owning or caring for animals for two years and required her to perform 200 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
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But on Monday, a court of appeal ruled that the judge erred in his decision, and reversed the ruling, sending the case back to prosecutors to re-examine.
“These circumstances certainly do not evolve over a short period of time and denies defendant’s claim to have regularly stopped by the apartment to feed the cats or to arrange for someone else to take care of the cats,” the court of appeal has written.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.