OJAI (CBSLA) — Authorities say they found a 96-year-old man living in a rat-infested Ojai home and arrested his daughter on suspicion of elder abuse and for failing to care for the menagerie of animals that were also being neglected.
Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was arrested last Thursday after Ventura County sheriff’s deputies were asked to do a welfare check at a home in the 1200 block of Gregory Street by Adult Protective Services. Their initial visit was actually to check on her 74-year-old sister, and the pair aroused suspicion when they refused to allow deputies inside the home, offered to bring out their elderly father in a wheelchair, and insisted that everyone inside the home was fine.
Deputies returned to the home the next day with firefighters, animal control officers, and representatives from the county’s Adult Protective Services, and code compliance and enforcement agencies and found a horrific scene.
Detectives say the ammonia smell associated with urine was evident 20 feet from the home. Eight dogs, two rabbits, one cat, an African Grey parrot, and 55 wild rats were impounded from the home, which was scattered with excessive animal feces and urine. Ventura Animal Control and the Humane Society estimated another 200 to 700 wild rats were still loose within the two-bedroom home’s walls, garage and garbage. The home was yellow-tagged due to the conditions being unlivable and a danger to both humans and animals.
Vandermaesen’s 96-year-old father, who was not identified, was given a medical assessment on the scene by firefighters and taken to Ojai Valley Hospital’s emergency room by ambulance. His health is believed to have suffered due to living in such filthy living conditions. He has since been taken into the custody of the county’s Adult Protective Services.
Vandermaesen’s sister was also assessed on scene and taken to the emergency room, and will get assistance from the county to get temporary housing.
Vandermaesen has since been released after posting bail and is scheduled to make her first court appearance on April 2.