Far North RSPCA inspectors found 64 cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by backyard breeder Irene Juhas. Cats were forced to live inside small cages.
Far North RSPCA inspectors found 64 cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by backyard breeder Irene Juhas. Cats were forced to live inside small cages.

Inside FNQ cat breeder’s house of horrors

WARNING: Distressing images

 

A SELF-proclaimed "cat rescuer" cruelly exploited animals for money, forcing 64 cats and kittens to endure cramped and squalid conditions in a home that reeked of urine and faeces.

Of the 64 felines more than one third had to be euthanised on humane grounds because of their sickly or deformed conditions.

Cassowary Coast woman Irene Juhas, who was breeding and selling purebred cats on Gumtree for about $300 each, has fronted the Innisfail Magistrates Court today over one of the worst cases of animal mistreatment in the Far North.

 

Irene Juhas leaves the Innisfail Magistrates Court on Friday after being sentenced for horrific animal cruelty charges. Pic: ELISABETH CHAMPION
Irene Juhas leaves the Innisfail Magistrates Court on Friday after being sentenced for horrific animal cruelty charges. Pic: ELISABETH CHAMPION

 

Today she pleaded guilty to six offences under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 and was banned from owning any animal again unless granted permission by the RSPCA.

Emaciated cats, consisting of Siamese, Balinese and Orientals, were confined to putrid living conditions, according to agreed facts tendered to the court.

Prospective buyers who answered the online ad were confronted by kittens with pus filled eyes that were so skinny their bones were protruding.

While piles of soiled cat litter were left rotting in the corners inside the South Johnstone home.

 

This kitten was sold to a buyer but had to be euthanised because it was so ill. It was among the 75 cats under the care of backyard breeder Irene Juhas.
This kitten was sold to a buyer but had to be euthanised because it was so ill. It was among the 75 cats under the care of backyard breeder Irene Juhas.

 

Other cats seemed to be homed in breeding pairs or trios. Some of the mother cats had litters of kittens in the cages with them and most of the enclosures had only a small container of water.

Of the surviving cats, some were traumatised from spending their days stuffed in small cat enclosures in a dark room.

The RSPCA received a complaint on May 29 last year from a prospective buyer, who said there were about 30 and 50 cats "in very poor condition" with symptoms of cat flu, in poor body condition and living in a home that "reeked of urine and faeces".

Juhas rung the RSPCA following a visit claiming her name was Renee Joyce and that she was a cat rescuer, who was known in the community and rehomed cats.

She claimed to only have 16, which she agreed to surrender. But when the RSPCA and Cassowary Coast Council arrived there were 24 cats in cages waiting - all had to be euthanized.

Far North RSPCA inspectors found 75 cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by exploitative breeder Irene Juhas.
Far North RSPCA inspectors found 75 cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by exploitative breeder Irene Juhas.

In June RSPCA inspectors were made aware of Juhas' ad on Gumtree selling cats for $300 each and immediately organised to search her property.

Juhas initially refused the RSPCA and Council access to her home and lied that she only had two cats and was minding two other cats for a friend.

However they found 40 cats in total. Even the inspector and officers began to feel unwell from the "strong putrid smell of ammonia, faeces and cigarette smoke and ash" inside the home.

 

Far North RSPCA inspectors found cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by exploitative breeder Irene Juhas. Some were housed in breeding pairs and trios in small carriers.
Far North RSPCA inspectors found cats and kittens living in squalid conditions bred by exploitative breeder Irene Juhas. Some were housed in breeding pairs and trios in small carriers.

 

Juhas was uncooperative and argumentative disputing the number of cats at the property. She also ignored an animal welfare direction by the RSPCA.

On one of the return visits the RSPCA inspector found a dead white and grey Siamese kitten just left in a cat carrier. Juhas said it had been sick for over a week but she had not taken it to a vet and that dead kittens were common "sometimes they just got sick due to genetics".

 

RSPCA inspectors found a dead cat left inside a cat carrier in the home of Irene Juhas after she was banned from owning more than two desexed cats.
RSPCA inspectors found a dead cat left inside a cat carrier in the home of Irene Juhas after she was banned from owning more than two desexed cats.

 

In January this year the court imposed an interim prohibition order banning Juhas from owning, buying or acquiring any cats - other than two desexed cats - until the case was finalised.

However, she had stashed 11 cats - seven adults and four kittens - at a family member's home in Lower Tully. They were seized by the RSPCA last month.

 

The terrible living conditions the cats of exploitative breeder Irene Juhas were forced to endure.
The terrible living conditions the cats of exploitative breeder Irene Juhas were forced to endure.

 

Self-represented, Juhas said she had left cats in the squalid conditions because she "panicked."

"I'd spent so much time and money and effort into increasing the gene pool and the type for showability, that I didn't want to see them all taken and destroyed," she said.

Juhas told the court she had been breeding cats since 1999, but her kittens became sick after she unknowingly purchased cats from breeders that had a virus.

"This virus became prevalent in my stock, and I was forced to take some nasty steps in euthanizing several to reduce the instance of this virus," she said.

"These animals I also would not rehome unless the prospective people were given full disclosure.

 

Far North RSPCA found cats and kittens living in squalid conditions under backyard breeder Irene Juhas. Cats were kept in cages in dark rooms.
Far North RSPCA found cats and kittens living in squalid conditions under backyard breeder Irene Juhas. Cats were kept in cages in dark rooms.

 

"Many would not want to take an adult for rehoming, and they did not want to pay for desexing as they wanted to breed their own, which I refused to allow.

"So they stayed - they were my responsibility.

"They were fed, they were housed, they were watered.

"I was not simply going to euthanize otherwise healthy animals because people didn't want to pay for desexing."

As well as the ban, Juhas was given a three-month wholly suspended jail term, two years' probation and must complete 180 hours community service.

She was also fined a total of $7737.54. Convictions were recorded.