Frankford’s “Cat Lady” has been acquitted of hundreds of animal abuse charges and intends to sue the SPCA for “destroying my life.”
Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden on Sept. 16 acquitted 65-year-old Alaine Jacobson of animal abuse charges after a day-and-a-half trial. Jacobson, who had a sign outside her Fillmore Street home that read “the crazy cat lady” lived there, was charged in April, shortly after the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals alleged the house was unsanitary and removed 239 cats from her house.
On Sept. 17, Jacobson said the SPCA “caused me untold harm” when its officers removed the cats from her home in late March.
Asked if she intended to sue the animal protection agency, Jacobson said, “You bet your sweet ass I am. I’m going to sue the living daylights out of them.”
SPCA workers wearing breathing apparatus spent 12 hours removing cats from Jacobson’s double property on the 1600 block of Fillmore Street in late March. The SPCA claimed the animals were being kept in unsanitary conditions because of high levels of ammonia, said spokeswoman Sarah Eremus. The two buildings’ floors were covered with cat feces, she had said.
“It was not clean,” Jacobson said last week. “It had been immaculate except for the last few months.”
Jacobson said in the spring that she had been running a cat-rescue operation out of her home and that the SPCA had been her ally. All was going well, she said, until the philanthropist who had bankrolled her nonprofit efforts pulled the funding. She wouldn’t name who that backer had been.
She said she had been cooperating with the SPCA because she knew she couldn’t take care of the cats anymore. “I knew I had to get my cats out of there. … My cats are more important to me than my human children,” she said last week.
Eremus said in the spring that before the cats were removed, the SPCA was aware of the unsanitary conditions in Jacobson’s home and had been working with Jacobson to get the cats out of the house. However, she said in March, investigators found the high ammonia levels in the home on March 25 and went back with a warrant to remove the cats on March 26. Jacobson was charged with multiple animal cruelty offenses soon after that.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Chung said that Judge Hayden acquitted Jacobson of all charges because he said the SPCA didn’t remove the cats and charge Jacobson when its investigators first became aware of the problems in Jacobson’s house. Had that been done, Chung said the judge had explained, the case would have been a “slam dunk.”
“We are extremely disappointed by the court’s ruling,” said PSPCA CEO Jerry Buckley. “We will abide by the court’s decision; however, working with pet owners in our community is at the heart of our mission to protect animals. We attempted to help Jacobson and offered her veterinary care and other resources, which she refused. At that point, we needed to remove the animals under a warrant in order to save lives. The court believes that Jacobson did not intend to harm her cats, but the fact is that her refusal to accept the help the animals needed was inhumane. Instead of penalizing Jacobson’s failure to care for hundreds of cats, the acquittal effectively penalizes the PSPCA for its efforts to keep them alive.”
Chung said the judge told Jacobson she could no longer care for animals. That is listed on the court docket, too. Eremus said the judge did not tell Jacobson she could not care for animals, but “urged her not to.”
Jacobson’s attorney, Andrew J. Levin, was very pleased with the trial’s outcome, but said he didn’t see how the judge could put any limitations on his client’s actions since he had acquitted her.
“You can’t find someone not guilty and impose a sentence,” Levin said during a Sept. 16 phone interview.
Levin said his client had dedicated her life to helping animals “and got in over her head. … It’s a sad case.”
Jacobson said she knows she can no longer take care of her cats, and she wants to get any the SPCA has away from the agency and place them in homes. Anyone who wants to help in that effort can call her at 215–535–1666 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We still have 76 of her cats on legal hold and are not sure at this time if she intends to surrender them to us,” Eremus stated in a Sept. 17 email to the Northeast Times. “We also have a handful that are available for adoption that were signed over previously.” ••