A volunteer animal rescuer is expected to face animal cruelty charges after authorities found numerous dead birds in a Little Silver home she shared with her parents, NJ.com reports.
Gretchen Rell, 54, a Mitchell Place resident who also has a home in Ocean Township, will be charged with failure to provide proper care to animals, Monmouth County SPCA Chief Law Enforcement Officer Victor “Buddy” Amato told NJ.com.
From the article:
On Monday, investigators were seen pulling numerous cardboard boxes, animal crates and bags from the home, all of which contained dead birds, Amato said. There were 18 live birds that were found and they were still counting the number of dead ones late in the afternoon.
“There’s boxes, piled on top of boxes, piled on top of boxes of dead animals,” Amato said.
Amato said there were various types of birds, including seagulls, pigeons, sparrows and doves, found in addition to some dead rabbits and other mammals. Rell volunteers at the MCSPCA as a rehabber, under the guidance of Don Bonica, who is licensed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife, Amato said.
“She’s a rehabber, people don’t bring dead animals to a rehabber,” he said. “At one point all these animals were obviously alive.”
Amato said authorities learned of the situation when Rell’s brother, visiting from out of state, called police after seeing the conditions at the home, Amato said.
“This is what happens to people that are well intended that get overwhelmed,” Amato told NJ.com.
The Asbury Park Press reported that Amato and other investigators had counted more than 300 dead birds in cages “stacked from floor to ceiling, five feet high,” in the garage, basement and elsewhere.
Rell lived in the home with her 95-year-old mother, Marie, and told her mother “never go into the basement,” Amato told the Press.
“To be honest, when you were upstairs, you could smell a slight odor. It wouldn’t be what you would expect with 300 dead animals,” he said.
Amato said the smell in both the garage and basement was horrific.
According to tax records, the Rell home is valued at $900,000. It sits among residences valued at more than $1 million. Rell also has a residence in Ocean Township, which Amato said was investigated Monday night.
Amato told The Asbury Park Press another 60 animals were found at the Ocean Township home where Rell lived with her husband. He declined to name the street where the house was located.
A twitter account in the name of a Gretchen Rell describes the account holder as “@avianwhisperer” above the motto: “It’s About The Wildlife. I am a avid animal advocate.” The authenticity of the account could not be immediately verified.
On LinkedIn, a Gretchen Rell describes herself as a wildlife coordinator at the MCSPCA since 1992, and says, “I am in charge of placing injured or orphaned wildlife with State Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators. I am also in charge of transportation to those rehabbers and facilities.” That account also could not be verified.
The organization’s 2011 annual report called out Rell’s volunteerism.
From that report:
Gretchen Rell is the (volunteer) Wildlife Coordinator at the Monmouth County SPCA. Wildlife might include birds, squirrels, opossum, or even alligators! In 2011, more than 600 different wild animals came through our doors, and Gretchen had a role in caring for each of them. Often the wildlife that comes to us is injured, or they are babies whose parents have been injured or are missing. Gretchen triages wildlife at the shelter, then determines whether they need to be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
“I have been assisting and transporting wildlife for 20 years now. A typical day in baby wildlife season: I’m up at 5:30am to start preparing formulas. Baby birds are fed every 15 minutes dawn to dusk, while baby mammals are usually fed every hour or two around the clock. If there are no other transporters available, I juggle feeding and transporting the animals to a licensed rehabilitator like Don Bonica of Toms River Avian Care. I try to spend some time each week at the MCSPCA, taking calls from the public with questions about wildlife, and providing addition- al assistance with wildlife cases.
My personal motto is “It’s about the wildlife.” If they need our help, we are there!”
A phone message left for Rell early Tuesday morning was not immediately returned.