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Woman charged after discovery of 64 dead cats

Caycee Lynn Bregel, 25, of St. Paul, has been charged with 13 counts of animal mistreatment — one of which is a felony — after a May search of her rural Dakota County animal-rescue operation uncovered 64 dead cats and more than 40 other neglected animals. (Dakota County sheriff’s office photo courtesy of KSTP)

ST PAUL—A St. Paul woman has been charged with 13 counts of animal mistreatment — one of which is a felony — after a May search of her rural Dakota County animal-rescue operation uncovered 64 dead cats and more than 40 other neglected animals.

Caycee Lynn Bregel, who ran the nonprofit Minnesota Animal Rescue, formerly called Minnesota Foster Cats and Kittens, was charged by summons this week in Dakota County District Court. She was arrested in May, following a search of the rental home in Castle Rock Township near Farmington.

According to a criminal complaint, the 25-year-old Bregel received 144 cats and one dog from the Animal Humane Society between July 2017 and February 2018.

Dakota County sheriff's deputies were called to the rental property three times in April and May on reports of numerous dogs and cats inside the home and a pig running loose. During one call, the owner of the home said he went inside and saw cats that were "skin and bone" and without food and water.

On May 9, deputies and an Animal Humane Society agent entered the home—with Bregel's permission—and saw 20 to 30 cats and a few dogs running loose, and floors, walls and windows covered in animal feces, the complaint alleges. In the backyard, deputies found animals buried in shallow graves and cat carcasses.

The next day, deputies wore protective equipment and searched the property. They discovered about 35 dead cats stored in a garage in various stages of decomposition; dead animals in freezers and refrigerators; an "overwhelming noxious" odor of animals, urine and feces; and feces and garbage on the floor of the house.

Sheriff Tim Leslie described the condition of the home as "horrific."

"Finding this many deceased, diseased and unnourished cats and dogs was extremely disturbing," Leslie said a statement Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The Dakota County Public Health Department condemned the house.

An examination by the Animal Humane Society revealed that cats were severely malnourished and suffering from multiple illnesses. One of the cats had to be euthanized.

Another nine cats, seven puppies and a dog were found in poor living conditions at a shelter Bregel had not yet opened in Farmington, the complaint alleges.