A district judge has dismissed 593 charges of animal cruelty against a woman accused of keeping hundreds of cats, some dead and dying, at an animal sanctuary, saying prosecutors failed to provide enough detailed evidence.
The district attorney's office said it would refile the charges against Linda Bruno with more specific information.
Bruno's attorney, Ron Valasek, told Judge Suzanne Blaschak on Thursday that he was not provided enough information to mount a defense. The 208 misdemeanor and 385 summary charges, all involving animal cruelty and neglect, were not specific enough, he said.
The judge agreed, saying the defense needed more information.
Valasek said he understood the charges would be refiled Friday.
Bruno, who has been free on bond, was "doing fairly well," he said. "She's happy that they'll now define what it is they said are the acts that were committed and that was no where in the complaint."
Failure to provide adequate care?
The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accused Bruno of failing to provide adequate care for the cats at her 29-acre Tiger Ranch near Tarentum, about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Officials raided the sanctuary on March 14.
Several hundred live cats were removed from the shelter. An SPCA spokeswoman said 278 were alive Thursday and were being treated in a vacant building that once housed the Clarion County Humane Society.
"They're responding to treatment," Lisa Rodgers said.
Thirty-six cats have died since the March 14 raid and 66 had to be euthanized, she said. Eight kittens were born and later died at the Clarion facility.
Bruno has said she took in cats that other shelters would not and that they were well cared for.
Several dozen supporters and opponents attended the hearing.
Al Merranko, 52, of West Deer, said he contacted Bruno about an injured stray cat in his neighborhood and visited Tiger Ranch.
"She is the most caring person I've ever talked to. You can tell in her voice there's a love for cats," he said. He described Tiger Ranch as a "rest resort for cats."
A woman working undercover recorded video inside Tiger Ranch. The material showed cats with swollen or pus-covered eyes and other injuries, as well as a freezer filled with dozens of cat carcasses.
The raid also uncovered burial pits containing perhaps thousands of cats, according to the SPCA.