Hard times for Queen of the Desert

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

CASSELBERRY, Florida––Cat Fanciers Association
board members conferred on June 30 to discuss penalties
they might impose against Sheila Gitlin Dye, 52, breeder of
Queen of the Desert, the brown tabby exotic who was the 1997
CFA “Best kitten.”
Casselberry Animal Control supervisor Vicky
Hilburn and staff, with local police, on May 18 removed
Queen of the Desert and 13 other cats from Dye’s allegedly
feces-and-trash-filled home. Three dead cats were reportedly
found among the debris. Dye was charged with cruelty.
CFA president Don Williams, of Ocala, Florida,
told Orlando Sentinel reporter Doris Bloodworth that he knew
Dye as a fastidious housekeeper who pampered her pets.
Williams’ daughter lived with Dye circa 1992, while attending
the University of Central Florida, Bloodworth wrote.


Queen of the Desert co-owner Becky Orlando, of
Palm Desert, California, told Bloodworth that Dye acknowledged
having been depressed in a post-arrest telephone conversation.
Orlando said Queen of the Desert was worth about
$25,000. Orlando was among several owners or co-owners of
cats recovered from Dye who took custody of the survivors.
Dye was the second nationally prominent cat breeder
to be arrested for alleged animal hoarding in only seven
months. The Massachusetts SPCA in October 1998 removed
58 live cats, three dead cats, and a dog from the West
Springfield home of Laurie Bobskill, 47. Noted for her role in
establishing the Munchkin breed on the show circuit, Bobskill
in July 1996 surrendered 126 cats to the MSPCA, but that case
was not publicized until after the 1998 raid.
ANIMAL PEOPLE files indicate that some cat
breeders have been arrested for alleged animal hoarding every
year since 1986, when we began tracking hoarding cases.
Before Bobskill and Dye, however, the last show breeder of
note who was caught in an alleged hoarding case was 19-year
Persian breeder and show judge A. David Bandy, then 56, of
San Jose, California. Arrested in November 1990, Bandy
reportedly gave up cat breeding––after CFA barred him for
life––and pleaded guilty to reduced charges in December 1992.
As Munchkins are not a CFA-recognized breed and
Bobskill was therefore not a CFA member, the CFA took no
action on her case.
“CFA does not have police power,” 12-year CFA
board member Joan Miller told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “but we
do deal severely with these cases when they are brought to our
attention. Most are people none of us have ever known or
heard of, but they register some cats with CFA. Sometimes
our hearings are after they have gone through a civil case;
however, even if they settled that or won, they still may not
prevail at a CFA hearing.” One show breeder was given a
chance to clean up his act after his first bust, Miller recalls, but
he and all other alleged hoarders coming before CFA hearings
during Miller’s board tenure were eventually barred for life.

Rescuers, too
As ANIMAL PEOPLE pointed out in a
January/February 1999 analysis of “The hoarding mind,”
alleged animal hoarders tend to be people who already kept
large numbers of animals, sometimes in exemplary conditions,
for years before severe depression brought hoarding behavior.
A review of 688 recent cases found that nearly equal numbers
were breeders (24%), rescuers (24%), farmers (19%), and
ordinary petkeepers (27%).
At least three rescuers of note ran into trouble for
alleged hoarding in mid-April 1999.
Animal control officers on April 9 seized 21 dogs
from Cathy Murphy, 43, of Stamping Ground, Kentucky.
Murphy told Jefferson George of the Lexington Herald-Leader
that she had saved strays for 25 years.
“Murphy moved to Stamping Ground six years ago,
a year after helping to start the Central Kentucky Animal Care
Association’s low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Lexington,”
George wrote. “Within five years, the clinic had performed
surgeries on about 13,000 animals. When the clinic closed due
to lack of funding in mid-1997, Murphy had 57 dogs and more
than 40 cats. Murphy said she lost a lot of money with the clinic.
She now works as a server at a Lexington restaurant.”
Feral Cat Project founder Julie Harris, 37, of
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on June 24 was given a suspended
fine of $1,000 plus a year on probation, and was
remanded for psychiatric evaluation. Police in April found 31
cats in her home, along with 30 dead cats in plastic bags, and
friends of Harris had reportedly already removed 35 dead cats
while the raid was pending. Harris incorporated the Feral Cat
Project [apparently unrelated to several other organizations
using the same or similar names in other states] in 1991.
In Crewe, Cheshire, England, Crewe Animal
Rescue Centre founder Ann Stott, 56, pleaded guilty on April
26 to 24 counts of animal cruelty for allowing 140 dogs, cats,
ferrets, and a fox to die in her custody during a May 1998 heat
wave. Only 20 animals were removed from Stott’s facilities
alive, reported David Ward of The Guardian.

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