Ex-Volunteer Accused of Cruelty After 300 Animals Found Dead

Tuesday, May 13, 2014  |  Updated 3:10 PM EDT
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Woman Accused of Cruelty After 300 Animals Found Dead

A former animal shelter volunteer in New Jersey is accused of animal cruelty after authorities found more than 300 dead birds, turtles, opossums and rodents in cages in her home.

Authorities say they also found more than a dozen new pigeons she had apparently acquired after the dead animals were removed from her home, according to prosecutors.

Gretchen Rell, 56, was arrested after police found the decomposing remains of the animals in her home in Little Silver in March, Monmouth County prosecutors say. On Monday, she was indicted on three counts of third-degree animal cruelty by a grand jury.

Investigators say that Rell, who lives with her 95-year-old mother in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes, picked up the animals from the Monmouth County SPCA to take them to rehabilitation centers.

Instead, the animals died at the home of dehydration or starvation, prosecutors say. Some had never been released from their cages. 

The birds found dead included seagulls, pigeons, robins, wrens and loons. Police also found another 60 animals in a home she shares with her husband in Ocean Township. 

Rell is currently out on bail, and cannot work at pet shelters under court orders, prosecutors say. She was also barred from having animals in her home, and officers confiscated 16 pigeons from her home that she apparently acquired after the first round of animals were removed. 

Attorney information for the woman wasn't immediately available. If convicted, she could face between three and five years behind bars.

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