California Woman Arrested After Dad, 96, Found in Home With Up To 700 Rats
Officials also removed eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, and a parrot from the site that was overwhelmed with garbage and feces.
OJAI, CA — A Southern California woman has been arrested after investigators discovered her 96-year-old father living in a hazardously filthy residence infested by approximately 200 to 700 rats.
In addition to the wild rodents crawling all through the house, deputies also reported removing multiple animals described as pets, including eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, a grey African parrot, and 55 supposedly domesticated rats.
Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, has been charged on suspicion of felony elder abuse and misdemeanor animal neglect, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
The situation came to light on Wednesday when deputies visited the home to perform a welfare check on Vandermaesen’s 74-year-old sister, who also resided in the home. Both Vandermaesen and her sister initially refused to let officers inside the house.
The following day, a sheriff’s task force that included social workers, fire officials, and animal-control officers returned and entered the property, where they discovered the severity of the situation — as well as that Vandermaesen’s father, who is restricted to a wheelchair, was living in such hazardous conditions.
Aside from the animals, deputies also reported that the residence was piled high with trash and inundated with urine and feces everywhere they looked.
Officers took Vandermaesen’s father and sister to a local hospital. Their conditions have not been made public. Police have described the sister as a second possible victim.
Since the removal, Venture County placed Vandermaesen’s father in protective custody and moved her sister into temporary housing. Another unidentified adult male who lived in the home is being treated as a witness.
In their report, county officials determined that Vandermaesen "willfully caused or permitted the health of her elderly father to suffer" and they “yellow-tagged” the house as being “unlivable and a danger to the occupants and animals.”
Vandermaesen remains in custody. She is due back in court on April 2.