CASTLE ROCK, Minn. (FOX 9) - A 26-year-old woman was sentenced to two years probation and 200 hours of community work service Friday after she was convicted in connection with the death and care of numerous cats at a Castle Rock, Minn. residence.
Caycee Lynn Bregel was charged with one felony count of animal cruelty and twelve misdemeanor counts for depriving animals of food, water or shelter. She pled guilty to the felony charge, but was sentenced as a misdemeanor.
In addition to the probation and community service, Bregel also must serve 90 days of electronic home monitoring and will pay restitution to the Humane Society and her former landlord.
As part of the sentence, Bregel cannot own, possess or care for any animals.
The charges were a result of her owning and operating "Minnesota Animal Rescue," which is a nonprofit organization.
According to the criminal complaint, in a span of less than two weeks, law enforcement responded to three calls of a pig loose in the 3800 block of 250th Street West in Farmington. The first time this happened Bregel told police she owned Minnesota Animal Rescue and was planning to move six dogs and twelve cats from the home to her rescue facility on the 900 block of 8th Street in Farmington as soon as she could.
On May 9, when the pig got loose again, a citizen contacted an Animal Humane Society agent, saying she was concerned for the animals inside the home. Bregel later arrived at the home and let the AHS agent and law enforcement inside where they found 20 to 30 cats and five to eight dogs running freely. The home had "an overwhelming odor of urine and feces" and the floors, walls and windows were "covered" in droppings. Officials also found animal carcasses throughout the backyard as well as buried in shallow graves.
One witness allowed into the home by officials to feed the animals told police it appeared the cats hadn't been fed or watered in several days. She described the home as "horrific" as there were "feces everywhere" and the litter boxes were "soaked" with urine. She said many of the cats seemed to be "emaciated."
After executing the search warrant at the home, the Animal Humane Society found 43 cats, 64 dead cats, one guinea pig and five dogs. The Dakota County Public Health Department issued an condemnation order for the home.
At Bregel's rescue business on 8th Street, authorities found nine cats, seven puppies and one dog.
The Animal Humane Society evaluated the surviving animals. Some cats were euthanized due to their health issues, including one which had both eyes matted shut due to a yellow discharge. One cat, which Bregel adopted from the AHS, lost 4.7 pounds while in Bregel's care.
Authorities completed necropsy exams on three of the cats. While their causes of death were undetermined, signs of possible starvation were present. The doctor found no food in the cats' stomachs and intestinal tracts, which would take about one week to become completely empty.
The charges state Bregel received 144 cats and one dog from the Animal Humane Society from July 20, 2017 to February 23, 2018.
"We could check on a foster today and they're perfectly fine and tomorrow they break," said Animal Humane Society Investigator Keith Streff. "If we knew why people do what they do, we'd fix it, but we can't withhold animals from everyone because we have a suspicion that there's going to be a problem."
Streff says the Animal Humane Society is revisiting how they could improve monitoring of foster volunteers after this incident.
"We may need to do more and we've made some changes to that effect," said Streff.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom gave the following statement:
"The abuse and mistreatment of animals in the manner that occurred in this instance was unconscionable."