Police Rescue 96-year-old Father From Ojai Woman's Rat-Infested Home


(Catherine Ann Vandermaesen: Ventura County Sheriff's Office)

Deputies arrested an Ojai woman after an investigation found she had been keeping her 96-year-old father in a home filled with hundreds of rats.

An investigation began March 13 after Adult Protective Services notified law enforcement that Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, may not have been properly caring for her 74-year-old sister.

Authorities say the two sisters prevented deputies from entering their residence when confronted and insisted all occupants were fine, The Ventura County Star reports.

The women were described as having visible fecal matter and urine stains on their person, as well as a scent of ammonia from urine, according to Ojai-based Detective Joseph Preciado.

The sisters continued to refuse deputies entry into their home but brought out their 96-year-old father in a wheelchair when authorities requested to see him.

Deputies returned last Thursday to the residence along with authorities from the Ventura County Fire Department, Adult Protective Services and animal control agencies.

Upon arriving, the scent of ammonia from urine could be detected 20 feet from the residence, deputies said. They impounded eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, an African gray parrot and 55 rats. Excessive fecal and urine matter was also found throughout the residence, according to authorities.

Investigators said they estimated an additional 200 to 700 rats were living in the residence. The house was yellow-tagged by the city of Ojai due to unlivable conditions.

Authorities say Vandermaesen was arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and misdemeanor failure to care for animals.

(Ventura County Sheriff's Department)


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