The decision, handed down Oct. 22, goes back to complaints in late August from several neighbors about “potentially abandoned” animals at a residence at 69 Cliff Street. Responding to their concerns, Tiverton Animal Control Officer Paul Bell attempted to contact the resident, Natasha Danielle Paradise, to no avail.
In his report, Officer Bell said he went to the Cliff Street home, walked around it, and saw animals and “disarray” inside. He left a notice on the front door asking to be contacted, and then called Ms. Paradise. She did not respond.
Two days later he received a call from the Ms. Paradise’s landlord who said she was concerned. Officer Bell returned to the house, and entered with her permission.
Inside he found numerous animals — one dog, one cat, four kittens, four fish, one skink, one tortoise, and one dead tree frog. All appeared to be neglected, with no food, no water. Most were flea-infested.
So horrific were conditions that Officer Bell said in his report he immediately called Animal Cruelty Officer Joe Warzycha of The Rhode Island Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA), who arrived within 30 minutes.
The two officers together inspected the house. “The flea infestation inside the residence was the worst I have ever seen,” said Officer Warzycha later. “It took less than 30 seconds inside before I was covered from head to toe.”
Officer Bell in his report said, “we photographed and documented all animals and evidence of neglect and mistreatment. We also found the home to be severely infested with fleas. Upon entering the home, we noted hundreds of fleas on our boots and clothing. I myself had received numerous flea bites on my lower leg.”
The two officials removed all animals. The cat, kittens, skink, and tortoise went to the SPCA facilities. The dog went to the Tiverton pound at the Sakonnet Veterinary Clinic. The four fish, in the two aquariums, were later taken to the SPCA.
“I was mortified by the condition of the house,” said Officer Bell, “and was very frustrated Ms. Paradise took no steps to get in touch with us. We called four times and she never called back.”
Police charged Ms. Paradise with 42 counts of abandonment, mistreatment, unnecessary cruelty, and malicious injury to animals, along with other violations.
Ms. Paradise, who has since moved elsewhere, pled no contest in the courtroom of Associate Judge Colleen M. Hastings to five misdemeanor counts of abandonment and unnecessary cruelty. The Oct. 22 hearing took about 10 minutes, said Officer Bell.
The plea, said Officer Bell, “acknowledges there’s sufficient evidence to be found guilty of those charges, but does not amount to a plea of guilty.” After two years, he said, those charges will be dismissed.
As for the animals, “the dog, reptiles and fish are all in good/fair condition,” said Officer Warzycha, “other than the fish tanks being filthy.”
It’s a slightly different matter for the kittens, he said, referring to a report from Dr. Patricia Burke, a veterinarian with the RISPCA.
Dr. Burke, he said, reported that “the kittens are old enough to have their eyes open, but most lids are pasted shut with discharge. When prying the lids open, whitish pus exuded. Luckily, once the yes were cleaned, they still have normal corneas, but had this gone on another day or so, they would have gotten ulcerated corneas (very painful) and eventually may have lost eyes.”