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Woman pleads guilty to abandoning cats

She left them in her old home. They slowly starved, eventually eating one another. She is sentenced to two years' probation.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


She left them in her old home. They slowly starved, eventually eating one another. She is sentenced to two years' probation.

LARGO -- Nancy Elizabeth Holloway was going through a bad divorce. She couldn't afford to maintain her St. Petersburg home. So she moved out.

But she left behind her four pet cats.

For more than four months. Without food. The doors and windows locked shut. Abandoned.

Pinellas prosecutors say the cats slowly starved. When one would die, the cats that were still alive fed on the remains of the dead. Eventually, all died.

"She basically turned her domestic animals into cat cannibals," prosecutor Pat Siracusa told a judge.

As she wept, Holloway, 50, pleaded guilty on Monday to four counts of felony animal cruelty and was sentenced to two years' probation by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Dee Anna Farnell.

The plea was an open one, meaning Holloway received no guarantee from the judge or prosecutors about her sentence. Each felony charge carries a maximum penalty of five years.

The judge ordered Holloway to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo a psychiatric evaluation and counseling if it is recommended.

Farnell also told her she can keep no pets until further order of the court.

Holloway now lives with her mother, who owns a cat. Her daughter, 11, owns a dog. The judge said the pets can stay as long as Holloway isn't in charge of caring for them.

"She was a single mother unable to cope with many things," said her attorney, Kevin Hayslett. "She's extremely remorseful . . . She can't tell us why it happened. She was under financial strain. I feel this was an aberration in her life."

Holloway, a nurse with no criminal record, would not comment as she left court.

In August, Holloway moved in with her mother, who also lived in St. Petersburg, after abandoning her home at 5924 McKee Lake Drive N.

On Jan. 12, a neighbor called police because she was worried that she hadn't seen Holloway in months. Police climbed in through a window. Inside a house filled with garbage, they found the four dead cats, all in the living room.

Three were just skeletons, fur scattered about.

A neighbor told sheriff's deputies that she noticed the cats locked inside the house and called Pinellas County Animal Services several times.

Welch Agnew, Animal Services' assistant director, said the agency got a lone anonymous complaint but didn't respond to the home. He said animal services is unable to respond to all of the 400 to 500 calls it receives daily.

"We get so many calls, we can't answer them all," he said. "If there had been a follow-up call, it would have been a higher priority."

The neighbor told deputies she considered breaking a window to get the cats herself but feared being charged with a burglary.

Hayslett said his client suffers from severe anxiety and was under much stress. He said she never previously abused the cats.

"She never intended to cause harm to them," Hayslett said.

Siracusa agreed. But, he said, "I can say that she took responsibility for those animals and she let them die horribly."

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