East Falls woman hopes to reclaim her cats, clear name after investigation

Posted: December 27, 2013

IT WAS THE day after Christmas, and no creatures were stirring in Marjorie Bamont's East Falls home.

It's been nearly two months since Bamont arrived at her three-story Henry Avenue home, the same home where Grace Kelly grew up, to find the Pennsylvania SPCA rounding up her cats as part of an animal cruelty and hoarding investigation. Bamont hasn't seen her beloved cats or her elderly Lhasa apso dog, Maggie, since then, she said, and she sat in her dark, pine-paneled living room yesterday, the cigarette smoke and sadness hanging in the air all around her as she wondered how they all were doing.

"I think about them every day. I'm concerned for them. They don't know why they're there," Bamont said, seated on a colonial-style sofa. "Some of them have never been out of my house. They were kittens I couldn't find homes for."

Earlier this month, Bamont, 82, was found guilty in absentia of 16 counts of animal cruelty and ordered to pay more than $10,000 in fines - and she didn't find out about it until a Daily News reporter notified her. Her attorney, Jack McMahon, said there was a mix-up and that Bamont will have a new trial.

Bamont's biggest concern was whether her animals could have been possibly adopted out after the conviction, but a spokeswoman for the SPCA said the animals will remain in the organization's care pending the appeal.

The SPCA claimed an agent responding to a complaint viewed a dead cat in the foyer of Bamont's Georgian-style home the day before the Halloween raid. The SPCA described the home as filthy and full of fleas and feces. Bamont asked the Daily News to come visit, she said, to prove she wasn't some "crazy cat lady." Christmas carols played on a loop beside a Douglas fir in her sunroom.

"I might need new carpets, but this house is not decrepit," she said.

A feline smell mixed with a citrus scent on the first floor. Bamont, dressed in white, contested the descriptions of her and the home and, more importantly, whether there was ever a dead cat on the carpet. The "dead cat," she insisted, was a rag.

"You'd smell it. How could you live with a decaying animal?" she asked. "I know when one of my cats didn't eat, let alone died."

Bamont's still furious that she was led out of the home in handcuffs and taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center for a five-day mental-health evaluation. She said her mind is "as sharp as a tack."

"They asked me if I knew where I was. I said, 'Of course I do, I'm at Albert Einstein,' " she said.

Bamont's a lifelong East Falls resident and has been living in the Kelly home for nearly 40 years, she said, raising her daughter and son there and, more often than not, a whole bunch of different animals. It started with two poodles named Lisa and Chubby, and after they got started, a handful of poodle puppies came along, too.

"That was an accident. I told my daughter, 'Don't take your eyes off of Lisa and Chubby.' Apparently, she did," Bamont said. "I have them buried at Whitemarsh cemetery for pets."

Bamont said she later worked with Adopt-a-Pet to find homes for animals after her children moved out and her husband passed away. She said she was fussy about who she'd grant an adoption. Bamont said she last dealt with the SPCA about a decade ago, after a woman grew angry with her after she wouldn't allow her to adopt a cat.

"I always called after the first day to make sure the adoption was working out," she said. "Our return rate was less than 1 percent because we worked hard to match the animals with the person."

Bamont said she's hoping for a better year, one where her name is cleared and her cats are home.

"I want them back here," she said. "This is where they belong."


Twitter: @JasonNark

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