Volume 74, Number 55 | May 25 - 31 , 2005

Former Village cat rescuer had 200 dead ones in yard

By Albert Amateau

Marlene Kess, a founder of the cat adoption agency and no-kill cat shelter, Kitty-Kind and a former Village resident, was charged last week with failing to shelter cats properly after 200 dead cats were found in garbage bags in her backyard in East Orange, N.J.

Kess, 56, who moved to East Orange in July of last year, was charged on Thurs., May 19, by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the agency that enforces New Jersey animal cruelty laws, with harboring an unlawful number of cats and creating an environmental hazard with the bodies of the dead animals.

The dead cats were apparently about to be buried in a large recently dug hole in the back yard, according to a WINS radio report.

Kees told reporters on Fri., May 20, that she was not guilty of cruelty. “I take very good care of them,” she said, adding, “People who know me know there’s no cruelty involved.”

Enforcement officers found 48 cats inside Kess’s East Orange house, including 38 in one room. But Kess was permitted to keep the 48 cats she was sheltering, according to the WINS report. Michael Fowler, of the Associated Human Societies in New Jersey, who was called to the Kess home, was quoted as saying, “Oh my God, it was awful. The smell was horrible.”

Dorothy Gordineer, a volunteer at the Kitty-Kind adoption service at the Petco Union Sq. store in Manhattan on Broadway and 17th St., said on Monday that Kitty-Kind was getting a lot of support from callers. Regarding the cat bodies found in Kees’s back yard, Gordineer said, “She’s apologized for that, but I think the number has been exaggerated. She loves cats and doesn’t kill them but she’s so overwhelmed that she wasn’t able to dispose of them properly.”

In April 2002, The Villager ran an article in which Kess said Kitty-Kind gets 20 calls a day from people who want to give up their kittens, mainly because they have to move and cannot care for them. In 2001, Kitty-Kind found foster homes for 950 cats and kittens, many of which were found in Brooklyn.

“Sheltering animals without euthanasia is generally passionate work by committed advocates who sometimes find themselves over their heads,” said Edward Boks, executive director of Animal Care and Control, the city animal control agency.

Boks, whose goal as A.C.C. director is eventually to eliminate euthanasia in the agency, said he was reserving judgment on Kess until the facts were made clear. However, Animal Care and Control, which works with many independent animal rescue groups, is suspending its connection with Kitty-Kind until the issue is resolved, Boks said.

Kitty-Kind is also a member of the Mayor’s Committee for New York City, a private group that works with city agencies and includes many animal rescue groups.

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