The police officer who arrested Linda Bruno during a March 13 raid on her Tiger Ranch cat sanctuary testified in court yesterday that he saw 13 cats "in awful condition" in one room, including one lying dead in a litter box.
Richard Manning, an Allegheny County sheriff's deputy for nine years, said deputies were asked by the district attorney's office to participate in the raid to help execute a search warrant on the 27-acre facility.
"We had no initial intention to make any arrest," Mr. Manning said.
Deputy Manning and a humane officer for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals testified yesterday at the preliminary hearing for Ms. Bruno, 45, of 160 Miller Drive. The daylong hearing included video taken by PSPCA the night of the raid.
The video showed many cats who appeared to be lively and not ill. There were some cats with apparent health problems, but they were shown with no explanation and defense lawyer Ron Valasek indicated he would address those pictures today when he cross-examines PSPCA Humane Agent Rebecca McDonald.
In the audience were six uniformed humane agents from three shelters who have been subpoenaed as defense witnesses. Agents from Animal Friends, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the Somerset Humane Society have inspected Tiger Ranch in the past and have found no reason to file charges.
Testimony will continue today before District Judge Suzanne Blaschak in Room 313 at the Allegheny County Courthouse. About 70 spectators attended yesterday.
In the interview with Detective Manning, taped on March 13 and played in court yesterday, Ms. Bruno said the 13 cats were kept in the "isolation room" because they were sick, and in some cases near death. She said they were being given medication under the direction of veterinarians.
Cats do die at Tiger Ranch, she said, because she takes in ferals and sick cats that other shelters turn away or kill. "I am a Christian and do not believe in euthanasia," she said.
The cats in the isolation room were euthanized that night.
Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064.