YOUNGSTOWN — Monica L. Rivera, 35, failed to appear for arraignment Wednesday in Youngstown Municipal Court on nine misdemeanor charges, accusing her of failing to properly care for 86 cats in her Early Road home on Youngstown’s South Side.
Rivera, who has an address on South Garland Avenue now, lived at the home at 728 Early Road where officers from Animal Charity of Ohio, Mahoning County’s humane agency, found scores of cats living in deplorable condition April 7. The home was demolished in May because of the uninhabitable conditions.
A Youngstown code enforcement officer first notified Animal Charity of the situation April 7. Animal Charity spoke with the property owner, who is the mother of Monica Rivera, according to a probable cause statement in Rivera’s file in Youngstown Municipal Court. It is written by attorney J. Jeffrey Holland, who works for an Akron law firm that Animal Charity appointed to serve as prosecutor for its criminal cases.
When humane agents entered the home, they found that it was “hoarded with items from floor to ceiling and infested with roaches, bedbugs, spiders and fleas,” the statement says. “The floors were covered with feces, urine and garbage. The odor of ammonia and trash made breathing difficult for the officers. Multiple cats were observed in various rooms.”
Code enforcement deemed the home uninhabitable, and humane society officials removed the cats — a total of 86 of them over two weeks, the statement says.
“They are so scared, not knowing we are trying to get them to safety,” a cat rescuer said April 8, the second day of the rescue. “They are hiding in the walls, rafters, mattresses,” the rescuer said. Officials said the home was one of the worst that Animal Charity had seen in recent years.
A licensed veterinarian reported that cats living in such conditions can develop respiratory disease, eye irritation and sickness caused by bacteria, and such conditions can weaken a cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to illness.
The nine counts of second-degree misdemeanor prohibitions concerning companion animals cover the offenses involving the 86 rescued cats. The first eight counts each cover 10 cats each. The ninth count covers the offenses involving the last six, according to court records. In Ohio, a second-degree misdemeanor conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to 90 days.
Each count accuses Rivera of being the custodian or caretaker of the cats. Each count alleges she “did negligently torture, torment, or commit an act of cruelty against” multiple companion animals.
The dates of the offenses are listed as Jan. 1, 2022, through April 22, 2022. The charges were filed against her June 8, when she was issued a summons to appear in court for the arraignment Wednesday morning. Magistrate Meghan Brundege issued a warrant for her arrest after she failed to appear for the hearing.