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California man, 96, found in home with hundreds of rats

This undated booking photo provided by the Ventura County Sheriff's Office shows Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, of Ojai, Calif. Authorities say the Southern California woman is in custody after deputies discovered her 96-year-old father living in a home stinking of feces and filled with up to 700 rats. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office says Tuesday, March 19, 2019, that Vandermaesen was arrested on suspicion of elder abuse and animal neglect. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office via AP)

OJAI, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California woman is in custody after deputies discovered her 96-year-old father and multiple pets living in a home stinking of feces and infested with up to 700 rats, authorities said Tuesday.

Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and misdemeanor animal neglect, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. She was in custody and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Vandermaesen didn’t want to allow deputies inside the home during a welfare check last Wednesday in Ojai, a small city in a rural valley northwest of Los Angeles, the statement said. A sheriff’s task force returned the next day and encountered multiple pets and urine and feces throughout the residence, authorities said. The home was also filled with garbage, according to the release.

Eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, a parrot and 55 pet rats were removed. Animal Control estimated the house was infested with another 200 to 700 rats.

Vandermaesen’s elderly father and her 74-year-old sister, who deputies described as a “possible victim,” were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Their conditions were unknown.

County welfare authorities assumed custody of Vandermaesen’s father, who uses a wheelchair. Officials also helped the sister get temporary housing services.

Vandermaesen had “willfully caused or permitted the health of her elderly father to suffer” by allowing him to live at the home, officials said.

The city declared the home “unlivable and a danger to the occupants and animals.”

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