By DAN DEARTH
8:09 PM EDT, August 28, 2012
An 85-year-old Hagerstown woman whose home was entered by officials last April to remove 41 cats was found not competent to enter a plea on animal cruelty charges, but her son and live-in caretaker was fined nearly $6,000 on Tuesday in Washington County District Court.
Roger Mills, 50, of 40 Charles St., was sentenced to pay $5,705 in restitution to the Humane Society of Washington County over a three-year period and serve a suspended jail term of 75 days by Judge R. Noel Spence.
Mills also was banned from keeping pets and feeding stray animals at the Charles Street property. He also was ordered to open the home to humane society officials for follow-up inspections.
Mills and his mother, Gladys, each had faced 47 counts of animal cruelty and failure to vaccinate against rabies charges, but prosecutors agreed to drop 37 of the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.
When Spence asked Gladys Mills if she agreed to the guilty plea, she said, “I’m not pleading guilty to any of them. Those poor cats need fed.”
At that point, Spence deemed Gladys Mills not competent to enter a plea, and turned his focus to her son.
As a result of the plea, charges against Roger Mills were reduced to five counts of animal cruelty and five counts of failing to vaccinate the cats.
“I don’t have anything to say,” Mills said when he was asked if he wanted to address the court.
Roger Mills’ attorney, Martin Palmer, told the court that Gladys Mills loved the animals so much that he tolerated her obsession.
“His mother can’t say no to any cat,” Palmer said.
Washington County Assistant State’s Attorney Michele Hansen said the humane society was called April 13 to remove 39 cats and two dead kittens from the home. She said all of the cats had varying degrees of health problems, ranging from pus-filled eyes to respiratory infections, and 10 of the animals had to be euthanized immediately.
“Because of this, there was evidence of neglect of all the cats,” she said.
Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said after Tuesday’s hearing that the humane society takes in about 4,000 cats every year. He said seizures such as the one at the Mills’ home put a strain on the organization’s resources.
“It takes a lot of money because we have to hold them,” Miller said.
Only eight of the cats survived, Miller said. Six of animals were adopted, and the other two were transferred to a rescue.
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