Montgomery County woman tries to kill 29 pets with rat poison

A Montgomery County woman, despondent about her finanacial woes and the care of 29 pets, is being charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty after trying to kill her cats and a dog with rat poison.

Here's the report from my colleague Bonnie Cook: 

Linda Muchnick was charged yesterday with one count of cruelty by killing an animal, and 28 counts of attempted animal cruelty by poisoning, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

Muchnick set out dishes of pet food mixed with blue DeCon rat poison pellets last week at her home on Bishopwood Blvd. East, in Harleysville, Towamencin Township, Ferman said.

There was water, but no other pet food in the house for 28 cats and one dog, said Carmen J. Ronio, executive director of the Montgomery County SPCA, which began an investigation of the incident Friday.

Muchnick, 56, was in protective custody at the psychiatric emergency intake unit at Norristown State Hospital, officials said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Monday, but it was unclear when it would be served.

The animals corralled in two rooms had been denied food for several days before the poisoned food was set out, Ronio said.

"I'm saddened by the desperation of this woman . . . and I'm saddened by the fact that these animals had to be treated in this way," Ronio said.

"This is the first time in my 38 years [in shelter work] where people have been overwhelmed to the point where they would destroy their own animals."

Police went to the house Thursday after they received a call from Lower Salford authorities reporting that a local veterinary clinic had received a letter from Muchnick saying mounting financial problems made her realize "suicide was the only solution."

"It would be best for her pets if she killed them along with herself so they could be together in heaven," the note read, according to a court affidavit.

Police found Muchnick unresponsive on the floor in the stifling house and rushed her to Abington Health Lansdale Hospital; it was not clear if she had tried to take her own life. A hospital spokesman did not return a call for comment today.

At the same time, Towamencin officers called the Montgomery SPCA, which sent humane officer Rhonda Thomas to the home. Thomas said blue pellets in the food and the sluggishness of the animals pointed to poisoning; she rushed the pets to county rescue shelters in Conshohocken, Abington and Perkiomenville.

One cat died in transit, Thomas said. The other 27 and the dog will be receiving injections of vitamin K, the treatment for rat-pellet poisoning, for the next two weeks.

The dozen or so cats housed in Conshohocken appeared alert and were eating and responding to treatment today. It was too soon to say what the long-term effects of the poison would be. A necropsy was performed on the dead cat.

"We are 99.9 percent sure that the cat died of rat poison," Ronio said.

Ronio said rat poison is a blood-thinning agent that works by inducing internal bleeding.