A New Jersey woman admitted to neglecting rescued birds after Monmouth County SPCA investigators found more than 300 dead birds at her mother’s home.
Gretchen Rell, 56, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of animal cruelty and one other cruelty charge was dropped.
Rell, an SPCA volunteer, said she was living with her 95-year-old mother in Little Silver while taking in birds for rehabilitation. As her mother’s health deteriorated, she claimed she began neglecting the birds.
In March, investigators found dead birds in cages “stacked from floor to ceiling, five feet high,” said Victor "Buddy" Amato, chief law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County SPCA.
He said the smell in the garage and the basement was horrendous. He claimed Rell told her mother “never go into the basement.”
"We have more than 300 animals and counting," Amato said back in March. "Ninety-nine percent are dead birds. Most of them are seagulls, pigeons, robins, wrens and loons."
Rell’s plea requires a probation period, to be determined by a judge, and a requirement that Rell seek mental health treatment and perform 30 days of community service, Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco told NJ.com.
She is also banned from contact with the Monmouth County SPCA.
Falco says the state wants the judge to issue an order giving Rell a lifetime ban from keeping animals, but the defense is expected to argue that it should only be a five-year ban.
“She never intended to harm any of the birds, she just got completely overwhelmed,” said her attorney Dennis Melofchik.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26.
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