Woman who had score of dogs, some dead, is jailed

Posted: March 26, 2010

The "Dog Lady" got bit by Lady Justice yesterday.

Virginia Wetzel, who last month was convicted of 25 counts of cruelty to animals for hoarding 21 live and four dead pets in her squalid Port Richmond home, was sentenced to six to 12 months in jail.

Wetzel, 70, formerly of Monmouth Street near Belgrade, must report to jail in 30 days, but was briefly held on contempt charges after refusing to provide her current address to Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons.

The judge also ordered Wetzel to serve probation for four years and pay $32,300 in restitution to the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

She also can't have pets for 15 years, Simmons ordered.

Wetzel, a widow with no children, earned her nickname from weary neighbors who complained about animal odors wafting from her home. She told the judge that she never harmed any of the animals.

Evidence from her case paints a different picture. PSPCA officers entered her two-story home on Sept. 30 after receiving a tip on the agency's hot line.

In addition to finding a filthy brood of 12 cats and nine dogs, the officers discovered the skeletal remains of four other animals, two of them under Wetzel's bed.

It took the officers two hours to clear a path through ceiling-high debris to reach the animals.

Wetzel took in strays as she found them, said Scott Sigman, her defense attorney.

"From our opinion, Ms. Wetzel is not a criminal. She cared for the animals like they were her children. Things, obviously, got a little out of hand," he said.

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