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Distressed Woman Tried to Kill Her Cats

Society & Culture  (tags: pets, dog, cats, poisoning, desperation, suicide, finances )

- 3616 days ago -
To Rhonda Thomas, a seasoned SPCA humane officer, the 28 cats in two stifling rooms in the Harleysville house appeared afraid and distressed, but she had seen worse. She planned to return for them the next day when she had help. Then she saw blue


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Raffi LidoRoiz (301)
Wednesday August 26, 2009, 1:23 am
Distressed woman tried to kill her cats

By Bonnie L. Cook

Inquirer Staff Writer
To Rhonda Thomas, a seasoned SPCA humane officer, the 28 cats in two stifling rooms in the Harleysville house appeared afraid and distressed, but she had seen worse. She planned to return for them the next day when she had help.

Then she saw blue pellets in the food dishes and knew the animals had been offered rat poison; quickly, she summoned three ambulances to rush the animals to Montgomery County's three shelters.

Yesterday, 27 of the cats were recovering after receiving vitamin K injections. A dog was recovering, too. "They're doing much better," said Carmen J. Ronio, the SPCA's director. One cat died from what Ronio said was rat poison.

On Monday, law enforcement officials from Towamencin Township joined the county District Attorney's Office in filing a criminal animal-cruelty complaint against the pets' owner, Linda Muchnick, 56.

Muchnick was described in court papers released yesterday as overwhelmed by mounting financial problems. The complaint accused her of one count of cruelty by killing an animal and 28 counts of attempted animal cruelty by poisoning, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

Muchnick set out the DeCon rat poison last week at her home on Bishopwood Boulevard East, Ferman said. An opened container was found on her dresser, court papers said.

There was water, but no other pet food in the house, Ronio said. The SPCA began an investigation of the incident Friday. The animals corralled in two rooms had been denied food for several days before the poisoned food was set out, Ronio said.

"I'm saddened by the desperation of this woman . . . and I'm saddened by the fact that these animals had to be treated in this way," Ronio said.

"This is the first time in my 38 years [in shelter work] where people have been overwhelmed to the point where they would destroy their own animals."

Police went to the house Thursday after they received a call from Lower Salford authorities reporting that a local veterinary clinic had received a letter from Muchnick saying money problems made her realize "suicide was the only solution."

"It would be best for her pets if she killed them along with herself so they could be together in heaven," the note read, according to a court affidavit.

Towamencin officers called in Thomas, whose quick action likely saved some of the animals' lives, Ronio said.

Police found Muchnick unresponsive on the floor in the house and rushed her to Abington Health Lansdale Hospital; it was unclear if she had tried to take her own life. A hospital spokesman did not return a call yesterday.

Muchnick was receiving treatment at Norristown State Hospital, officials said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Monday, but it was unclear when it would be served.

The dozen or so cats housed in the animal shelter in Conshohocken appeared alert and were eating and responding to treatment yesterday.

It was too soon to say what the long-term effects of the poison would be. A necropsy was performed on the dead cat.

"We are 99.9 percent sure that the cat died of rat poison," Ronio said.

Ronio said rat poison is a blood-thinning agent that induces internal bleeding.

Penny S (61)
Wednesday August 26, 2009, 7:51 am
So sad.

Barbara W (342)
Wednesday August 26, 2009, 5:33 pm
No one knows how they/I/we/you might act if the world closed in and there was no way out.. So many good folks are going through a great deal. This is a sad story, no doubt. We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

Raffi LidoRoiz (301)
Wednesday August 26, 2009, 9:04 pm
I felt so bad for her-although this is a terrible way to try to depart this world-and horribly unfair to her cats. She was desperate and you can see it-although it was wrong-and she should have taken another course-given her cats to a shelter or found someone to take them or called a fostering program like ours here -in any case-it is a heart breaker.

annie Flanders (19)
Wednesday August 26, 2009, 10:02 pm
this is so sad. i shall keep all these animals in my prayers.

Wednesday August 26, 2009, 10:28 pm
May them R.I.P.

Catherine Turley (192)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 12:33 am
poison is so brutal. why would she think this was better than euthanasia at the pound.

Susan D (116)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 1:26 am
Poor little cats. I don't think the owner can have been in her right mind.

Mary Neal (183)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 2:36 am
I hope the cats were all saved and that the woman also got psychiatric care. Speaking of mental illness, I am trying to post an article on Frank Horton, the mentally ill man who was kept 9 mo. in solitary confinement in a Nashville CCA prison naked in filth until a guard saved his life. His grandmother sued for his abuse, and the trial results are in, but I am not able to post the news. Is there trouble with Care2 News Network posting, do you know? After a few tries, I was finally able to post the story to AIMI at the link below. It should be posted at Care2News Network in the Health area whenever this becomes possible. I have tried twice. Can't seem to post to AI, either. Is the system experiencing problems or just me?

Mary Neal
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill

Past Member (0)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 3:27 am
This seems on the face of it to be a careing compasionat woman who found herself in over her head.She definatly needs help.A very sad story but a worthy one.

sue M (184)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 4:02 am
Anti Psychotics destroying peoples lives again, perhaps?

Raffi LidoRoiz (301)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 10:44 am
I don't know Mary-I didn't have any problem posting-I have a lot of problems with CARE but not submitting stories...

I wanted to say also that the reason I can understand this first hand is that my mother had 20 cats that she took in-she had/we had a small rescue in Florida.

She got on Social Security and eventually finances became a problem and at one crucial point she thought she would lose the house and everything else and she was going to take this kind of action-I was not there-I was married and away..

and when I found out-my brothers and I intervened-but my mother was a chronic suicide (it was a severe deficiency of Vitamin B that made her fall into terrible depressions) and she was going to kill herself and the cats...she even asked a neighbor about toxic substances that might kill you but in the end she couldn't do it. She had a gas stove and she was going to leave that on...we found out later.

She had a conversation with a friend and her friend started to pick up the distress and then she knew that she had to do something-she contacted my brothers and me and we took care of it but before that she would not say anything about the desperate straits she found herself in. She was a very proud woman and secretive. When I read this-I could entirely understand.

Thanks for comments everyone.

Gillian M (218)
Thursday August 27, 2009, 12:10 pm
The poor woman loved her pets so much that once she left them she did not know what would happen to them. To her the best thing was to take them with her over the rainbow bridge.

It is sad that this woman was in such a state and there was no-one to see or care. A terrible inditement on society.

Thursday August 27, 2009, 9:09 pm
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