So far, 85 cats have been removed from the home of a Hales Corners village trustee due to disease and improper care, and the house is being stripped down to the studs to check for damage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned.
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None of the 85 cats removed by the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission survived.
Linda Bergan, the owner of the home according to Hales Corners tax property records and a village trustee since 2019, has since resigned. Her resignation was approved by the Board of Trustees on Nov. 20.
Bergan has not responded to a request for comment from the Journal Sentinel.
“We are collaborating with authorities to remove animals (specifically cats) from that home,” Executive Director of MADACC Karen Sparapani said in a news release. “We have not completed the removal yet for a variety of reasons. Once we have fully cleared the residence … I can confirm with you the number of cats that we have removed.”
Records reveal details of other animals in home, why cats couldn’t survive
According to an open records request the Journal Sentinel filed with MADACC:
On Oct. 23, MADACC was called to assist the Hales Corners Health Department with an animal removal at Bergan’s home on Mallory Avenue.
Bergan signed over her animals to MADACC on Oct. 21. Two days later, the removal process began.
The removal process is still ongoing. On Nov. 3, a reporter noted a strong odor outside the house.
One cat was pronounced dead on the scene. Several died on the way to MADACC and some died after they arrived at the center. Most were euthanized.
The condition of the house was a crucial factor in why none of the cats survived, records showed.
When cats become sick under stressful conditions, such as improper diet, dehydration or lack of appropriate places to eliminate, their immune systems plummet and they begin to get sick with upper respiratory infections, according to MADACC.
Between Nov. 18-20, neighbors have seen at least two additional cats roaming around outside the property, according to the records.
In addition to the 85 cats, two dogs and two hedgehogs were found in the home.
Bergan is the owner of the two dogs that were found. The dogs are brother and sister. The dogs didn’t appear to show any symptoms of mistreatment or injuries, but were in need of grooming. Bergan did not surrender the dogs to MADACC, so they were not checked out by professionals.
MADACC did advise Bergan to surrender at least one of the dogs.
The condition of the two male hedgehogs is unknown, as MADACC does not handle exotic animals.
Remediation of the house started Nov. 20. During remediation, the interior of the house is ripped down to the studs to check for animal urination, more animals and other animal-related damage. All of the walls must be checked, as well as the flooring.
According to MADACC, Hales Corners has a 90-day limit to complete the animal removal and remediation. In the end, the house must be back to a livable condition.
Bergan was cited with animal neglect
Per the open records request, there are no pending criminal charges against Linda Bergan, but the Hales Corners Police Department did issue three citations:
- Animal neglect; failure to provide proper medical attention
- Owner responsibility of dwelling maintenance
- Animal sheltering violation; failure to provide proper shelter
Corey Prom, the manager of Corners Pet & Grooming in Hales Corners, read a letter during the Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 20 condemning Bergan’s actions.
“I want to say I’m appalled by the recent news about Linda Bergan,” Prom said. “I feel so sorry for the animals Linda made suffer.”
Prom said Bergan had proposed an ordinance to ban puppy, cat and small animal sales in Prom’s pet store.
“I can’t believe how hypocritical she was,” Prom said. “She came to the Hales Corners Village Board meetings proposing the ordinance to ban puppy, cat and dog sales in our pet store and then (had) the audacity to falsely accuse our business of neglecting animals when she was the one doing just that.”
Bergan’s proposal was also a conflict of interest that should have been disclosed, Prom said, because it was later discovered that Bergan’s daughter, Kristin Bergan, had been fired from the pet store for theft.
According to a Hales Corners police report, Kristin Bergan briefly worked in the pet store in 2021. She was fired after being caught on surveillance video stealing $137.91 in merchandise, including two bags of dog food, a bandana, assorted treats and birdseed. Police issued her a shoplifting citation and ordered her to pay restitution.
She was also ordered to be fingerprinted and booked for a mugshot, which did not happen until nearly nine months later.