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Pet shelter shut down...Charges filed


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#1 puppymom

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 03:49 PM

Pet shelter shut down


An undercover sting that officials say confirmed suspicions of animal cruelty shut down the Tiger Ranch Farm on Thursday night and placed nearly 700 cats, nine dogs and several other animals in the care of a state animal protection group.

The Allegheny County Sheriff's Department arrested Tiger Ranch owner Linn Marie, also identified as Linda Bruno, 45, of 160 Miller Drive, after animal protection workers found dozens of dead cats and many others with infectious diseases.

Officials did not release the charges that Marie faces. She was still being processed at the Allegheny County Jail at 1:30 a.m. today.

Animal protection officials said it will take several days to round up all of the cats roaming the farm property. According to Howard Nelson, CEO of the the Pennsylvania Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a search warrant was obtained Thursday afternoon following a seven-month undercover investigation.

Tiger Ranch Farm was touted as a no-kill cat sanctuary.

Deborah Urmann, a former Butler County humane officer, said she posed as an employee since August, taking care of and cleaning up after the hundreds of cats.

Urmann collaborated with rescuers Carolyn DeForest and Rebecca Reid, who said only that they are not from the immediate area, as well as Dr. Becky Morrow, a veterinarian at the Saxony Animal Clinic in Buffalo Township.

Urmann said she would relay information to DeForest and Reid, who were staked out along Miller's Drive.

DeForest said she and Reid watched as countless numbers of cats were dropped off at the sanctuary by various animal shelters, agencies and individuals.

Nelson said 300 to 400 of the cats had to be medicated due to highly contagious diseases such as calicivirus that causes heavy mucus to seep from the cats' eyes.

Hundreds of cats were being treated for dehydration.

"I have never seen a case like this," said the SPCA's Nelson.

The cats were taken to a temporary animal hospital that was set up in Shippenville, Clarion County.

Nearly four hours into the raid, 200 cats had been captured, assessed and taken to the animal hospital to be checked, groomed and dewormed.

Urmann said the four women contacted the SPCA after observing the poor conditions that the animals were living in.

"I found one cat dead in the litter box and many near death," Urmann said. "The smell is so horrific that when I used to leave, I would still have tears in my eyes."

Urmann said Marie had one deep freezer full of dead cats, while a second was one-third full of carcasses. There were two other empty freezers.

Urmann said humane officers would bring cats to The Tiger Ranch and ask Marie about sick cats they saw.

"She would tell them it was an abuse case and the cats were under vet care," Urmann said. "There was no reason not to believe her."

DeForest said Marie would brag about receiving cats from nine states and 32 shelters.

Marie also had nine dogs, eight horses, chickens and a goat on the farm. All the animals are to be removed from the property.

As of Thursday night, 12 of the cats had to be euthanized.

The remainder will be placed in isolation until they are well enough to be adopted.

"She claims she's a no-kill shelter," Urmann said, "but really she's a slow-kill shelter."

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Charges filed in Tiger Ranch Farm cat abuse case

Animal welfare authorities have removed 200 of the approximately 650 cats at filth-strewn Tiger Ranch animal shelter in Frazer.

The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the cats will be taken to a temporary shelter being set up in Shippenville, Clarion County.

All of the cats are being examined by a local veterinarian prior to shipping.

In addition to the approximately 450 cats remaining on the property, there 50 found dead and 12 who were euthanized. Eight horses at Tiger will be sent to an SPCA adoption center in Danville in central Pennsylvania.A Frazer woman has been charged with 14 counts of cruelty to animals, stemming from her operation of cat shelter.

Tiger Ranch Farm operator Linda Bruno, 45, who is also known as Linn Marie, was arraigned Friday shortly after 10 a.m. and sent to the Allegheny County jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bond.

An undercover sting Thursday night closed the farm at 160 Miller Road. Investigators found dozens of dead cats and others that are diseased.

Nearly 700 cats, nine dogs and other animals taken from the site are now in the care of a state animal protection group.

http://www.pittsburg...h/s_557305.html

#2 puppymom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:25 AM

Hundreds of cats removed from Frazer property

The Frazer woman who housed hundreds of feral and sick cats, nine dogs and several other animals has been charged with 14 counts of cruelty to animals.

Tiger Ranch Farm owner Linda Bruno, 45, who is also known as Linn Marie, was arraigned Friday morning.

Bruno was being held in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bond.

Howard Nelson, CEO of the Pennsylvania Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said Bruno could face several hundred more animal cruelty and neglect charges once all the animals are assessed.


"I'll never forget the stench and what she did to those cats," Nelson said. "She should be brought to justice."

The SPCA shut down the Tiger Ranch Farm Thursday night after an undercover sting confirmed suspicions of what it determined to be animal cruelty.

Nelson said 175 cats were removed from the property Thursday night. From 175 to 200 cats were removed Friday afternoon and transported to a temporary animal hospital set up Thursday at the former site of the Clarion County Humane Society in Shippenville.

Less than 24 hours after the humane society raided the cat sanctuary, 55 dead cats still remained on the property. That number doesn't include the dozen that had to be euthanized Thursday night and the hundreds of bones found in burial pits.

Between 600 and 700 cats were estimated to be roaming the 29-acre farm, according to Nelson.

According to an Allegheny County property report, the former livestock farm at 160 Miller Drive was 29 acres, and not the 300 acres Bruno had told several people who had dropped their cats off.

"Right now, the cats are part of a criminal investigation," Nelson said. "They don't belong to us, yet."

Nelson said Bruno would have to surrender the cats to the SPCA before they can be put up for adoption.

Cat haven?

Situated at the end of a quiet Miller Lane, the gated sanctuary apparently once was the perfect place to take a sick or unwanted cat to live out the rest of its nine lives.

"There are pieces of the property that are beautiful," Nelson said. "And there were places where people were just picking up cats."

Several trailers are placed throughout Tiger Ranch that are used to house different types of cats. Each trailer is numbered and has a "cat door" that leads outside to a covered porch and fenced-in area.

Carolyn DeForest, one of the rescuers involved in the sting, said the farm had nine numbered buildings that were known as buildings such as the "kitten room" and "death room."

One smaller trailer was encompassed with gating that didn't allow cats access to the outside other than via a small catwalk.

"There are three deep freezers and one upright freezer near the window in the garage," DeForest said. "On burial day, she would throw the cats out the window and into the backhoe."

A putrid stench radiated from the property into a neighboring field.

Members of the APCA's Animal Crime Scene Unit walked through the sanctuary videotaping open graves and photographing specific areas.

The burial pit that was recently dug can be seen from a Google Earth satellite image.

DeForest said the burial pit has been shifted three times since she began keeping track of burials in 2006.

At one point during the recovery of live cats Friday, the SPCA ran out of carriers and had to place cats in cages.

Nelson said volunteers had been herding cats since Thursday evening and was unsure when all animals will be rescued.

All but one dog, which the SPCA has named "Whitey," has been captured and taken to Shippenville.

The horses remained on the farm Friday afternoon, but are to be transported to the SPCA adoption center in Danville, Montour County, in the eastern part of the state.

"Tiger Ranch can't happen in the state of Pennsylvania ever again," Nelson said.

More than 60 volunteers worked throughout the night Thursday to save as many cats as they could. Lindsey Nazarek, a junior biology and health science major at Duquesne University and a student of Dr. Becky Morrow, who was instrumental in the investigation of the farm, arrived at 8 a.m. yesterday to help care for the cats.

"Being in there gives you one of those feelings that words could never describe," Nazarek said. "There are cats with their eyes glued shut from puss, ones bleeding, they have wounds -- it is just horrible."

Farm volunteer defends "good intentions"

Jack Ferguson, who volunteered at Tiger Ranch for the past three years, believes that Bruno only had good intentions for the animals.

"As a volunteer, I helped to count the cats, and I would say there was approximately 300," Ferguson said. "She limited certain areas. There were cats in the house and pens with fresh water and food."

Ferguson said Bruno placed the dead cats in the freezers because they did not belong to her.

"She told me that they are not Tiger Ranch cats," he said. "Her arrangements were to take dead cats from veterinarians and she would have them buried on the edge of her property for lower costs to their owners.

"She took them for free out of the goodness of her heart," he said. "People came from far to get cats."

According to a July 28, 2006, inspection by five humane police officers, Tiger Ranch admitted feral cats from Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, in addition to those they've taken from Pennsylvania shelters and residents.

The inspection states: "Prior to today's inspection, Tiger Ranch had been investigated before by various humane police officers, some of which were accompanied by their own licensed veterinarians.

To date, no citations have been issued. ... Many of the cats admitted to Tiger Ranch come with pre-existing issues that are tended to by the several area veterinarians who work with the sanctuary.

"Cats that are in poor shape and ill health, that are victims of neglect and abuse, and those that are considered 'unadaptable' because of temperament, medical issues or behavioral problems are accepted. ..."

Bruno's aunt, who wished not to be identified, said Bruno loved animals, and that she couldn't get anybody to work for her.

"She never had a mean bone in her body," she said. "What they are doing to her is wrong."

Where's my cat?

Each hour yesterday brought a new person to the cat sanctuary in hopes of retrieving the animal that they had dropped off in hopes of giving it a better life.

Jessica Warman, of the Regent Square section of Pittsburgh, stood in the driveway to Tiger Ranch wiping tears from her face as she looked for a way to get her cat back after using the sanctuary as a temporary shelter.

"When my 8-month-old baby was 6 weeks old, we moved from Greensburg to Pittsburgh," she said. "It was too much with a baby, toddler and cat, so the humane society recommended Tiger Ranch.

"Life gets in the way, and we have been saying once a week that we need to come back to get our cat."

Nelson said each cat is being photographed and documented as part of the recovery.

Since Tiger Ranch is considered a crime scene, no cat is being returned to its former owner or to prospective adoption seekers.

Nelson said a Web site will be set up detailing the cats, dogs, horses, chickens and goat that have been seized. Once Bruno surrenders all the animals to the SPCA, they will be able to be adopted.

http://www.pittsburg...h/s_557415.html

#3 puppymom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:34 AM

Health agency warns people to avoid feral cats

Nearly 100 cats buried at the Tiger Ranch Farm don't pose an immediate health risk, but wandering feral cats there could become a problem, an Allegheny County Health Department spokesman said.

On Friday morning, health department inspectors visited the farm -- which had between 600 and 700 cats and other animals until they were moved to other shelters -- at the request of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said spokesman Guillermo Cole.

"The 29 acres where she operated was the only site that has a well," he said. "All of the other residential properties in the vicinity have a public water supply."

The inspectors saw some cat skeletons lying exposed on the ground, but most of the dead cats were buried or in freezers. At the same time Cole warned people to avoid feral, or wild, cats at Tiger Ranch, as well as those that might have wandered from the farm.

People should routinely avoid stray or feral cats anywhere because it's unclear if they have had all of their shots to prevent disease, including rabies, Cole said.

Tiger Ranch owner Linda Bruno, who is known to numerous shelter managers and customers as Linn Marie, was jailed pending a hearing. Officials said they couldn't say if the cats were inoculated before she turned them loose at the farm.

Domestic cats, skunks and raccoons are the species that most readily spread rabies.

"There's no way for me to know if they had their shots or not," said state Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser.

Several shelter owners said Bruno accepted feral cats from across the region and even other states.

"Last January we sent about 50 feral cats. (Bruno) told us she would release the feral ones on her property. She said she had 300 acres," said Zanesville, Ohio, animal shelter executive director Larry Hostetler.

An Allegheny County property Web site says Bruno owns 28 acres, not 300.

Hostetler said Bruno always accepted feral and sick cats that are not accepted elsewhere.

"She never took pets or healthy cats," he said.

The SPCA sting "comes as quite a shock to me," Hostetler said.

Fayette County humane officer Elizabeth Davidson is equally surprised because Bruno showed compassion time after time.

Davidson said Bruno accepted the most sick cats, some with leukemia, that were scheduled to be destroyed. She also did more.

"About two years ago a woman came in with a cat hit by a car. (Bruno) took the cat, paid about $1,000 in veterinarian care, and then she gave the cat back to the woman," she said.

Linn also took some abused dogs and cats that otherwise would have been killed, she said.

Davidson said she has visited the farm more than once.

"It seemed clean and well organized" on her repeated visits in the past five years. Her kennel managers have said the same things, she said.

Hostetler is thunderstruck.

"We've been there a lot, and there hasn't been a problem," he said. "This is blindsiding me."

Tiger Ranch accepted sick cats, but feline disease strikes even the best shelters, Hostetler said.

Last year the Zanesville shelter had to kill 150 cats stricken by a fast-spreading and deadly disease, he said.

Dan Musher, development director for the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, said the league sent about 100 feral cats to Tiger Ranch during the past two years.

"It was never very many," Musher said. "And our volunteer who did take the cats said she never saw what's being reported in the news."

At least one shelter manager thinks Tiger Ranch's owner might have tried to reach too far to help cats.

The Humane Society of Westmoreland County, in Greensburg, can handle about 100 cats at a time.

"That's about the limit," said executive director Kathy Burkley. "We do our best, but we reach a point where we have to refuse to take them.

"I don't know how she could handle 700," she said. "The cost is overwhelming."

It costs the humane society about $250 to vaccinate and neuter cats and remove any parasites, she said.

"It's constant fundraising here," Burkley said.

Meanwhile, the sting is causing worry for cat owners near and far.

Last October the Clifton, N.J.-based Angels of Animals made the long drive from New York City's suburbs to deliver at least a half-dozen cats to the farm.

"We were assured they went into foster care," said spokeswoman Ellie Kowalski, who made the six-hour trek. "Now, we'd like to know if they are OK," she said. "We will drive another six hours to take the cats back if necessary."

http://www.pittsburg...h/s_557419.html

#4 puppymom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:38 AM

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Howard Nelson and Lisa Rodgers of the Pennsylvania Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals use yellow markers to show were animal bones were found at the Tiger Ranch Farm in Frazer. Nelson, CEO of the PSPCA, said owner Linda Bruno, 45, could face several hundred more animal cruelty and neglect charges once all the animals are assessed. "I'll never forget the stench and what she did to those cats," Nelson said. "She should be brought to justice."


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Duquesne University student Steven Barrows works to load cats from the Tiger Ranch Farm in Frazer. They will be transported to a temporary animal hospital set up Thursday at the former site of the Clarion County Humane Society in Shippenville.



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At one point during the recovery of live cats Friday, the SPCA ran out of carriers and had to place cats in cages. Howard Nelson of the Pennsylvania Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said volunteers had been herding cats since Thursday evening.

#5 puppymom

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 07:29 PM

Charges mount against Tiger Ranch operator in Frazer

With all of the cats and other animals now removed from Tiger Ranch Farm in Frazer, officials said the number of cats needing euthanized is steadily climbing.

Lisa Rodgers, director of outreach for Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said 30 cats had been euthanized as of Saturday afternoon since being recovered from what was billed as a no-kill cat sanctuary.

Rodgers said more than 350 cats were rescued from Tiger Ranch and that each is being tested for illness at Clarion County Humane Society in Shippenville.

Many of the animals are infected with diseases such as calicivirus, feline AIDS and leukemia, upper respiratory infections and intestinal parasites. "We are seeing a laundry list of diseases," Rodgers said.

Authorities on Thursday arrested Tiger Ranch owner Linda Bruno, 45, and charged her with 14 counts of animal cruelty. They shut down her facility the same day and began to collect the animals, estimating that as many as 700 cats were living there in squalid conditions.

Rodgers said Saturday that animal rescue workers had not been able to get an exact count of the number of cats rescued from Tiger Ranch. The process of collecting the animals wrapped up Friday.

Horses, chickens and a goat were among the other animals found at Tiger Ranch. None of those animals had to be euthanized, Rodgers said.

Rodgers said 105 cat carcasses were removed from deep freezers on the property.

Each cat carcass and cat that must be killed will add another charge of animal cruelty for Bruno, Rodgers said. "We will constantly be adding charges," she said.

The cats that have not already be euthanized will be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days. Rodgers said animal rescue workers will then decide if the surviving animals can be adopted.

The PSPCA is asking for donations of cages and newspaper to support the shelter in Shippenville.

Meantime, at least a half-a-dozen women stood Saturday at the gate leading to Tiger Ranch. They were hoping to trap and rescue any of the cats that might be loose on surrounding property.

The women said they had each dropped off at least one cat for care at Tiger Ranch in recent years.

"I'm sure there's probably a number of feral cats still out here," said Carrol Mazur of Harmony Township. "I dropped off cats here some years ago. I'm sure mine are all long dead.

"After several visits here, I decided that this place was horrible."

With a cage in hand, Mazur said she hoped to rescue at least one of the cats she believed were still on the loose.

Kathy Schwenning of Pittsburgh, Susan Matthews of Monroeville and Marion DelPriore of Washington, D.C., said they knew trouble would eventually find Bruno and Tiger Ranch.

The trio said they hired a local private detective last year in an effort to expose what they believed were awful conditions on the property.

"We knew something was wrong," said DelPriore, who relocated a colony of feral cats to Tiger Ranch from Washington, D.C.

Schwenning said she toured the property in 2003 and couldn't believe what she found. "All I saw were sick cats," she said.

Authorities said they decided to shut down Tiger Ranch after a seven-month undercover investigation that exposed what they described as squalid living conditions.

Lee Nesler, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, said her agency conducted its own investigation of the property last year but found no violations. At that time, Nesler said, Humane Society officers found about 350 cats on the property.

"Our officers felt that what she was trying to do was a good thing," Nesler said. "She obviously overextended herself."

Bruno's mother, Irene Bruno, said her daughter posted bond early Saturday. A prison official, however, said Linda Bruno failed to post bond and remained incarcerated in Allegheny County Jail on Saturday afternoon.

Irene Bruno said her daughter is being represented by Lower Burrell attorney Ron Valasek. The attorney did not return a phone call for comment.

http://www.pittsburg...h/s_557525.html

#6 puppymom

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Posted 19 March 2008 - 08:50 AM

Tiger Ranch lawyer defends operation

A long-haired gray cat shivered in apparent fear Tuesday afternoon as it hunkered under the overhang of the shelter reserved for old cats on Tiger Ranch farm.

Linda Bruno, owner of the farm in Frazer, and Tiger Ranch volunteers are angry that the Pennsylvania branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized more than 2,000 pounds of donated cat food and feeding bowls.

"The PSPCA left the remaining cats here with no food," said Bruno's attorney, Ron Valasek of Lower Burrell. "In fact, they went as far as to euthanize cats in front of her."

The SPCA seized more than 600 feral and sick cats, dead and alive, from Tiger Ranch farm last week after a seven-month investigation. Lisa Rodgers, SPCA director of communications, said the donated cat food was seized in order to feed the cats that were taken to a makeshift animal hospital at the former site of the Clarion County Humane Society in Shippenville. The feeding bowls were also seized.

"We left cans of food out all over the property for the remaining cats," Rodgers said.

Rogers said 406 live cats were removed from the 29-acre site.

Ten of those died before they could be driven from the farm to the makeshift animal shelter.

The total number of cats who had to be euthanized rose from 40 to 45 last night, Rodgers said.

Valasek explained the way that Tiger Ranch operated prior to last week's raid.

"Tiger Ranch has eight full-time volunteers and 35 part-time volunteers that perform duties such as transporting the cats to the vet," he said. "There are three volunteers who either work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. 'Linn' is the fourth person."

Valasek said Tiger Ranch opens its gates each Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. to take in any cat, even those that are sick or feral.

Once on the property, the cat is given a quick analysis and paperwork is filled out and filed.

"The cats are then placed in the isolation room because they don't know if there is something the owner did not tell them," Valasek said. "Each one is seen by a vet before it is placed in the cat population."

Valasek said every Monday and Wednesday cats are taken to veterinarians to be assessed.

If the cat is determined to be adoptable, it is placed with other adoptable felines, he said.

Feral cats are placed in a separate trailer, as are kittens, terminally ill and old cats.

"Tiger Ranch is a no-kill cat sanctuary," Valasek said. "Those who are in bad shape become Tiger Ranch cats. They are the ones with deformed paws and are sick."

Volunteers estimated that Bruno accepts 1,560 to 2,600 cats per year -- 30 to 50 cats per week.

Valasek said more than 1,000 cats are adopted from Tiger Ranch each year.

Ranch volunteer Dave Powers said he believes God called upon Bruno to care for these sick and feral cats.

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#7 keporter

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 07:22 AM

Frazer shelter owner faces 574 charges

WEST DEER -- As promised, prosecutors have filed hundreds of counts of cruelty to animals charges against the owner of a cat sanctuary in Frazer that officials shut down last month.

Linda Bruno, owner of Tiger Ranch, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to 574 counts of cruelty to animals.

That's 84 more counts than the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office estimated last week Bruno would face.

Mike Manko, spokesman for the DA's office, said the charges were refiled because "nothing has changed."

"We believe the evidence supports the fact that a crime was committed," he said.

In all, the charges involve 467 cats, four horses and a goat that were living on Bruno's property on a lane off Bakerstown Road in Frazer.

Last week, District Justice Suzanne Blaschak dismissed about a dozen counts of cruelty to animals after Bruno's attorney, Ron Valasek of Lower Burrell, said the accusations were too vague. The initial criminal complaint filed was six pages long.

The revised criminal complaint -- 218 pages -- charges Bruno with 203 misdemeanor counts of willfully and maliciously killing, maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring a cat.

There's another 371 summary counts of cruelly ill-treating, beating, or otherwise abusing an animal, or neglecting the animal from care, food, water, clean shelter, and veterinary care.

The revised criminal complaint details what prosecutors say caused each animal to die.

According to the criminal complaint, several charges were filed for some cats.

For example, Bruno is charged with maliciously killing or torturing one cat that she allegedly failed to properly feed and hydrate, and failed to provide proper veterinary care that resulted in its death.

For that same cat, Bruno also is charged with exposing it to infectious conditions at Tiger Ranch, and failed to respond to respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions, oral ulcers and gum diseases that caused the animal to suffer and ultimately die.

The District Attorney's Office accounted for each animal, giving each a letter and number.

Lisa Rodgers, director of outreach for the Pennsylvania Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, said every animal was catalogued in this manner whether they were alive or dead, and each was photographed as they were taken from Tiger Ranch.

Should Bruno be convicted of any of the misdemeanor counts, the law allows for fines of up to $10,000 and a jail term of up to five years in prison for each cat.

A conviction on each summary charge could result in a fine ranging from $50 to $750 and up to 90 days in jail.

But Valasek doesn't see either happening.

"Linda Bruno is not guilty of anything but caring for those cats," Valasek said. "Tiger Ranch is a no-kill facility, and it takes the worst of the cats that no one else wanted."

"God is in charge," Bruno said, "and if I don't get my animals back, I will meet with them again somewhere to help them again. The Lord will turn me in the right direction."

Bruno was released on a non-monetary bond. She is to have no contact with veterinarian Dr. Becky Morrow or Deb Urmann, who spearheaded an undercover investigation. She also isn't allowed to possess or have control of any animal, or even have contact with any animal.

Blaschak scheduled a preliminary hearing for Bruno for 1 p.m. April 17.

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