gretchen rell selfieGretchen Rell with a bird she called “Monty” in a selfie posted on her Facebook page in January. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A volunteer animal rescuer who kept hundreds of dead birds and other animals in her mother’s Little Silver home was indicted on animal cruelty charges Monday, authorities said.

Gretchen Rell, 56, an Ocean Township, was charged with two counts of third-degree animal cruelty in an indictment handed down by a grand jury in Freehold, according to an an announcement by Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

The charges came two months after authorities, acting on complaints by neighbors, entered the home of Rell’s 95-year-old mother, Marie, on Mitchell Place in Little Silver. There, they found more than 300 dead birds and other animals in cages “stacked from floor to ceiling, five feet high,” Monmouth County SPCA Chief Law Enforcement Officer Victor “Buddy” Amato told the Asbury Park Press at the time.

Among the finds were “various types of birds, turtles, rabbits, mice, opossums, and other mammals that could not be identified due to the extent of decomposition,” Grammicioni said in the annoucement.

Rell, a wildlife coordinator at the Monmouth County SPCA since 1992 who was reported to live part-time at the address, instructed her mother to “never go into the basement,” Amato said at the time.

From the announcement:

A joint investigation by Little Silver police and SPCA investigators revealed that between January 2013 and March 2014, Rell, a volunteer in the wildlife division of the SPCA, took in numerous animals for purposes of temporary rehabilitation. But instead of rehabilitating the animals, the animals in her care died of starvation and dehydration.   Many of the animals were discovered still in their original sealed crates or boxes.

Rell appeared before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci, Jr., J.S.C. on Monday, where she was released on her own recognizance pending a future court appearance. Judge Mellaci imposed the following conditions upon her release: She is not to return to the Monmouth County SPCA; she may not take into her care or custody or reside with any animals or creatures; and, if she currently has in her care or custody or resides with any such animal or creature, she must immediately relinquish that animal to the Monmouth County SPCA.

Upon her arrest, law enforcement discovered birds in the residence, and Rell admitted to having 16 pigeons in her home. Those birds were confiscated from the home in accordance with the bail restrictions imposed by Judge Mellaci today.

If convicted of Animal Cruelty, Rell faces a sentence of three to five years in prison.