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April 12, 2021

Animal cruelty suspect ordered to house arrest

Ava Geddes must wear GPS monitor while felony charges are pending

A Morgan Hill woman who is accused of felony animal abuse has been ordered to wear a monitoring device and is restricted to home confinement after a hearing in Santa Clara County Superior Court last week, according to authorities.

Ava Geddes, 66, appeared at the San Jose Hall of Justice March 4 for a hearing on two felony counts of animal cruelty and one misdemeanor neglect charge. The hearing was continued to May 13 for additional “felony advanced resolution” discussions, according to Santa Clara County Supervising District Attorney Vishal Bathija.

Also at the March 4 hearing, the judge ordered that Geddes be fitted with a GPS device, Bathija said. She was also ordered to home confinement while the case makes its way through the court system.

The court also ordered Geddes to be supervised by the county’s Office of Pretrial Services while she is out of custody awaiting further criminal court proceedings. Geddes had been previously released on her own recognizance.

Geddes was arrested and charged shortly after Morgan Hill Police officers in June 2020 discovered numerous dead cats—many locked in individual cages—at her home, according to court records. Upon serving a search warrant, officers donning hazardous materials protective gear found more dead cats, some living yet unhealthy felines, animal waste and debris throughout the interior of Geddes’ home.

Investigators found at least nine dead cats at Geddes’ home—in various states of decomposition—and seven living cats, according to court records.

Her home had been “yellow tagged” by the city, or deemed uninhabitable, shortly after police entered, according to authorities.

Prior to her arrest, Geddes had been known for several years in South County for local volunteer animal rescue efforts.

“The assigned prosecutor has been alerted to reports from the public that she might still be engaged in trapping feral cats,” Bathija said in a March 5 email. “The orders were agreed to by our office to ensure she can no longer do so while the case is pending.”

Bathija added that Geddes’ defense team requested the orders requiring GPS monitoring and home confinement.

Geddes’ attorney, Josh Jachimowicz, has previously said Geddes has become “overwhelmed with the magnitude of (the) charitable task” of taking in stray cats.

Cat rescuers speak up

South County has a tight network of volunteers who help to locate, treat and rescue stray or sick cats and other animals. Since hearing about Geddes’ arrest, some of these volunteers have spoken up to spread the word about safe, humane and responsible animal rescue efforts.

Jenifer Lepow is a lead organizer for the Morgan Hill nonprofit All Animal Rescue & Friends. One of the group’s top ongoing activities is “Trap And Release” (TNR). This involves the trapping of feral cats—without harming them—and having them spayed or neutered in order to control the stray feline population.

Once a feral adult cat is trapped, the volunteers make an appointment with the county animal shelter the same day, Lepow explained. After the animal has recovered from the surgery, the volunteer then releases the cat at the same location where it was trapped.

“It keeps their colonies together, it controls the population and it keeps sick and dying and orphaned kittens out of the rescue system,” Lepow said. “We cannot rescue our way out of a (feral cat) population explosion. We have a lot of individuals in the community trapping 12 months a year. Don’t associate trapping as a negative thing. It’s very positive if done in a safe way. It’s necessary—if we don’t actively trap, it becomes completely out of control.”

Lepow said she has known Geddes for several years through their mutual local cat rescue efforts. Geddes has “never been part of our organization,” Lepow said.

Former Morgan Hill resident Krista Guardino also got to know Geddes through TNR and rescue activities. Guardino has since moved to Montana and founded the Bozeman Animal Rescue Coalition. 

Guardino sent the Santa Clara County DA’s office a lengthy letter in response to the charges against Geddes. The letter lists “red flag” warnings that Guardino noticed about Geddes that raised her suspicions several years ago. Guardino provided the letter to this newspaper.

Guardino wrote in a separate email that she fears that the case against Geddes might discourage other well-meaning volunteers from becoming involved in animal rescue efforts.

“The most frustrating thing about this entire situation is that animal rescue organizations rely on volunteers, and we need people to… sterilize community cats to keep kittens from being born on the streets and euthanized in our shelters,” Guardino wrote in an email. “There are never enough people willing to put in the work for the betterment of the furry inhabitants of our community and to keep kittens out of our overburdened shelters.”

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