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 Oakland County Animal Control Officer Rachel Whitlock was the one who discovered what the department is calling the worst hoard in the area’s history.

Oakland County Animal Control Officer Rachel Whitlock was the one who discovered what the department is calling the worst hoard in the area’s history.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Cat hoarding case heads to court

By: Tiffany Esshaki | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 24, 2019


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Local residents have been bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court in relation to their alleged involvement in what police say is the “worst case of animal hoarding” they’ve ever seen in the county.

Jonathan Klein, 53, and Jennifer Klein, 47, were in 48th District Court Judge Marc Barron’s courtroom June 20 for a probable cause hearing, at which point they waived their right for a pre-trial hearing. The couple are charged with one count each of abandonment/cruelty of 10 or more animals, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, a $5,000 fine and up to 500 hours of community service.

In advance of the hearing, the Kleins were given a $10,000 bond at 10%, along with the condition they have no contact with any animals during the court process. They each posted $1,000 bail and were released, with the animal restriction still in effect.

“These charges represent a lot of outstanding work and commitment by Oakland County Animal Control Officer Rachel Whitlock and the rest of our animal control staff, along with our partners at the Michigan Humane Society,” Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center Manager Bob Gatt said in a press release. “They have given a voice to 178 cats who were living in deplorable conditions.”

According to police reports from late April, animal control officers were tipped off to a potential cat hoarding incident at a home in the 1700 block of Elsie Drive in West Bloomfield. Whitlock investigated the tip, and she could see through the home’s windows even before the investigation that the conditions were not fit for animal care.

“We initially got a welfare call about six cats,” Whitlock said during an interview May 22. “You could just see inside that it was unsanitary, but I didn’t know how many cats were in there.”

In the days to follow, a search warrant was obtained, and Whitlock and animal control officers would pull 178 cats from the residence. The cats were suffering health issues like upper respiratory infections, ear mites, malnutrition and more. Those illnesses were too advanced for 60 of the cats, and they needed to be humanely euthanized. More than 100 of the cats are still being cared for at the shelter, with many being deemed healthy and behaviorally ready to be adopted out to new homes.

The Kleins are due in Circuit Court at 1 p.m. July 3 for an arraignment by Judge Michael Warren. Jennifer Klein’s attorney, John English, could not be reached for comment before press time, nor could Jonathan Klein’s attorney, Vincent Green.