Ojai woman faces elder and animal abuse charges after deputies shocking home discovery

An Ojai woman is behind bars after authorities discovered evidence of elder abuse and poor living conditions generated by dogs, cats, birds, and upwards of 700 wild rats at the home she was living in with her 96-year-old father.

Deputies from the Ojai police station were called out to the 1200 block of Gregory Street in Ojai on March 13 for a "check-the-wellbeing" call that began with the Ventura County Adult Protective Services.

According to protective services, Catherine Ann Vandermaesen was suspected of not properly caring for her 74-year-old sister and 96-year-old father, who were not identified by authorities. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office says when deputies made contact with Vandermaesen and her sister, they did not want the deputies to enter the home.

Suspicious deputies and detectives returned the following day and were met with a strong ammonia smell as far back as 20 feet from the home created by urine. Authorities learned that Vandermaesen had allowed her father to live in conditions not fit for human living and willfully permitted her father's health to suffer under those living conditions, the Sheriff's Office said.

Additionally, the animals under Vandermaesen's care were living in conditions not fit for animal living due to the excessive animal fecal and urine found throughout the house, said the Sheriff's Office.

In all, eight dogs, two rabbits, a cat, an African Grey parrot, and 55 wild rats were removed from the home but authorities believe there may be 200-700 wild rats still loose throughout the home.

The Cty of Ojai Code Enforcement yellow-tagged the house due to the danger it posed for human and animal living.

The 96-year-old man was taken to the emergency room for medical treatment as well as Vandermaesen's 74-year-old sister.

Vandermaesen was arrested and booked at Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for felony elder abuse and misdemeanor failure to care for animals.