PITTSFIELD — Before she abandoned 15 cats in two locations in January, Kelly Hathaway told a friend in Lanesborough she was desperate to get rid of the animals to avoid eviction, authorities said.
Hathaway admitted leaving the cats in remote areas of Lanesborough and Richmond after the woman declined Hathaway’s request to take them in, according to a report by Sgt. William C. Loiselle, a special state police officer with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law Enforcement Department.
New details about the animal cruelty case emerged after Friday’s arraignment of Hathaway, 49, and Arthur Raney, 59, who are both facing multiple felony counts in the incident. They were charged earlier this month following an investigation into the Jan 28 incident.
Most of the cats were rescued and are receiving care in local shelters, but two died and another remains missing.
Raney’s black 2006 Chevrolet Equinox was seen on surveillance video visiting the Richmond site where the cats were abandoned, the report said.
When interviewed by police on Jan. 31, Raney admitted to driving Hathaway and her cats, which had been placed in a metal cage, to be dumped “because he felt bad for her [Hathaway] and didn’t want to see her evicted.” Raney and Hathaway are tenants in separate units in the same Pittsfield rental building.
The landlord told police they were trying to sell the building, and had asked Hathaway to remove the cats “because of their offensive urine smell and their difficulty of finding a potential real estate agent,” the report said.
A GROUP EFFORT
The cats were discovered by passersby in the two towns amid bitter cold conditions. A couple heading out for an afternoon hike found six of the abandoned cats near a trailhead on the dead end of Potter Mountain Road in Lanesborough.
They caught three of the cats, but the three others climbed up a tree, the report said. The Lanesborough Fire Department was able to retrieve one, and another eventually made its way to a “makeshift shelter” set up in the area.
About an hour later, a motorist came upon the other group of cats near Beech and Shore roads in Richmond.
The motorist posted a message to area animal advocacy groups asking for help, and the manager of the Berkshire Humane Society “mobilized staff members and volunteers.” Most of the cats were rescued after an hourslong search that stretched into the evening, but two did not survive.
Raney and Hathaway each pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday to 15 counts of animal cruelty. They were released on their own personal recognizance with the condition they own no pets.
Each count of animal cruelty is punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and seven years in state prison.