Self-deception and deceiving others in cat hoarding

In the murky world of cat hoarding there is often self-deception (a false belief that they are doing good) and deception of others to obtain more cats. Facebook can be a used to present a false image.

Cat hoarder mother and daughter
Cat hoarder daughter and mother. Alexandra Ann-Marie Wingate and her mother, Sharyn Ann Wingate
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This article deals with the lengths a cat hoarder will go to in order to obtain more cats. The family in this story differs from the Julianne Westberry case, in that Julianne apparently saved cats out of greed and fraud, while this case deals with a mother and daughter who truly appear to love cats. They simply can’t comprehend the problems that arise in trying to save too many.

Alexandra Ann-Marie Wingate and her mother, Sharyn Ann Wingate live inside a very nice home in Dunwoody, Georgia. At least the appearance on the outside is respectable. Inside, the cats in their care lived a nightmare. The two women have been arrested at least twice on animal cruelty and neglect charges since late 2011.

The first arrest on record for Alexandra (age 40) and Sharyn (the records list her as between 66-69) came December 1, 2011. The offense date was October 24, 2011. Dozens of cats were removed from the home at that time. If you click here, you’ll see five counts of animal cruelty and 67 counts of animal neglect. Records show they were released on a $1,000 personal resonance bond. Alexandra and her mother pleaded guilty, and received 12 months probation, according to this document. I believe they were also told not to take in more cats.

The second arrest on record came on October 3, 2014 when Alexandra and Sharyn were arrested after 70 cats were found inside the home. The conditions inside the home were so bad the staff who went in to rescue these cats had to wear hazmat suits (the same suits people wear for Ebola).

This time the bond was set at $5,000. I’m not sure how many charges of cruelty and how many of neglect the ladies are facing, but the photos showing the living conditions of the cats are pitiful. After Alexandra and Sharyn surrendered the cats, most of them were taken to DeKalb County Animal Shelter. Thirty four cats were taken by Good Mews, an animal rescue organization out of Marietta. Shelter workers say the cats are in good condition, but needed vaccinations and flea medications. Hopefully homes can be found for them.

Here’s a video of the home, and the conditions the cats were forced to live in – Note from Michael: I have removed the video as it clashed with software on this site preventing it working. I have some screenshots in its place:

Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cat Hoarder House
Cats at shelter rescued from hoarder's house
Cats at shelter rescued from hoarder’s house

Now for the big question; how did this happen, and why didn’t someone do something sooner?

Alexandra and Sharyn were reportedly ordered to receive mental health treatment after the first arrest. I haven’t been able to confirm, but I’ve heard they didn’t get help for their hoarding impulses. Instead, it would appear the ladies got creative in obtaining new, and more cats.

I’ve spent the past few weeks since this arrest snooping around the various Facebook pages that have addressed the issue of how more cats ended up in their care. Apparently, Alexandra has several different aliases she goes by on Facebook. One report says she has been able to get others to obtain the cats for her, without her name coming up. Also, Alexandra managed to convince one or more rescues that she would be a good foster to a cat, or that she wanted to adopt a cat on death row in a shelter. It’s not clear whether any of those who obtained cats for Alexandra knew of her prior arrest. Still, it shows a home visit before placing a cat in her care never happened.

Next we have law enforcement in the area. The DeKalb County police knew there had been a problem with hoarding back in 2011, yet they most likely never did a follow-up visit to be sure the ladies were in compliance with court orders. Had the police made routine house calls, Alexandra and Sharyn likely wouldn’t have taken in this latest round of cats.

The big problem is this likely isn’t over. Because Alexandra and Sharyn are true hoarders. They either believe no one else could offer the cats as good a life as they could (yes, they probably think this is true), or they were willing to go as far as necessary to save the life of a cat. Did they believe no one else out there would have saved the cats who eventually had to be rescued from THEIR care earlier this month? Maybe they knew the cats would have been euthanized if they didn’t offer a cat a place in their home, and couldn’t stand the thought of the cat dying in a shelter. I believe their downfall was in not thinking clearly about the care and expense involved in keeping a lot of cats. A few cats in their home quickly became a dozen, then two dozen, then 70.

This type of hoarding is happening throughout the U.S., where the hoarders truly believe they’re saving lives. The mental issues involved are practically invisible, with the hoarder believing they’re a vital part of the rescue community. The Dunwoody case should make rescues, as well as shelters, more aware of who they hand off a cat to. One problem is rescues meet prospective cat parents through Facebook. The problem on Facebook is you can be anyone you want to be, and these rescues and shelters are using Facebook profiles to form an opinion on a person. Just because a person claims to love cats on Facebook doesn’t mean a cat would have a good life in their care. Home visits are vital, and rescues and shelters need to find a way to make that happen.

Alexandra and Sharyn need professional help, or they’ll likely be facing more arrests in the future. One way the rescue community can help them is by memorizing their faces, and not obtaining any more cats for these two ladies. Even if they do love cats, someone needs to step up and save these ladies from themselves. And any treatment ordered by the court needs to be followed up on.

95 thoughts on “Self-deception and deceiving others in cat hoarding”

  1. Robert has indeed been a wonderful friend and a great support to my mother and me. Yves has not ever met Robert in person, and so he is not able to make valid conclusions about him or the kind of person he is. Robert is a tremendously unselfish man who has a true love for cats, and I am blessed to know him….as is my mother. I truly do not know how either my mother or I would have made it through the past few months without Robert being in our lives!!

    Reply
  2. Minerva was my friend at one time. I remember after the first arrest when she was pretty much cat-free and telling everyone how much better her life was going to be. I hate to see they may be living in a van. What happened to their beautiful home? I worry a lot about Alexandra and her mother as well. I would hate to be 70 and homeless.

    I think Alexandra has such a deep love of cats she can’t help but surround herself with them. I don’t know what would help her. I do know that the cats in rescue are preventing those rescues from saving cats from kill shelters in Georgia because they have no fosters to care for them til adoption. It’s just sad all the way around. I don’t want to see her in prison because I think she’s a kind person. I only hope she doesn’t neglect her mother.

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    • I agree with you Elisa: Alexandra has such a deep love of cats to the point where their health comes before her own serious health problems! She loves cats more than herself.
      She and her mother need help from genuine honest people (not like this Robert Herman). I’ll do my best and will be there for her.

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      • Thats funny, Yves. You are the same person who has tried to convince Alexandra its you who truly loves her while sending her messages that you would kill yourself if she quit communicating with you or, that your MS causes you to act a certain way as to why you send her information about socialpaths about every man she shows interest in. Take a look at my Facebook and see for yourself a few of the recent pictures of me and her if itll help you to fill better. I also have read alot of your messages you sent to her over the years. You try to be manipulative and call it emotion but, she shes your game. Thats like you trying to blame me when she told you no, you werent coming to visit.
        Dont believe everything you hear people…

        Reply
  3. After reading Robert Herman’s hypocritical comment here I am afraid I have to post my witness statement here. Robert Herman presents himself as defender of Alexandra here. He is not. In his correspondence to me he called her a “con” and a hoarder guilty of cruelty to animals. He succeeded in turning some of Alexandra’s friends against her. Robert Herman is a troubled deceiver.

    I happen to be in a relationship with Alexandra for many years. At the moment I live abroad in the UK and we agreed we would meet up soon this year in Atlanta (before her recent arrest and incarceration). I know her well and she is determined to bet cured from her mental disease.

    I blame Robert Herman for the psychological warfare he waged against her since last June. Given her two previous police arrests (animal cruelty), Alexandra is psychologically vulnerable. Robert Herman sensed that, as the good predator he is. Alexandra wrote me: “After all, he (Robert Herman) knows about my major problems with depression.” I blame him for having played a role into her trying to escape from her house and getting back to her pet hoarding addiction, she did out of scare and desperation.

    The problem is that Robert Herman has developed sick romantic fantasies about Alexandra since last June. He wrote to her saying he is “saddened beyond belief” of her relationship to me despite Alexandra wrote to him many times that she is not interested in him. Then he wrote her (we share emails obviously) that his goal was to end our relationship. He wrote me with hostility adding that “ive been writing her for over six months thats my wife someday, loser may yhwh judge between you and me!” Alexandra told me he even showed pictures of her to his mother with whom he lives in Atlanta (he is 45yo!). He wrote me hostile messages of hatred and, to quote Alexandra in her written correspondence with me: “(Robert Herman) is definitely a narcissist! He sent me about 25 pictures of himself yesterday – along with 30 new messages. I do not understand why a man would continue to relentlessly pursue a woman who clearly has no interest in him.” In fact he kept writing her everyday or night. She even received over 70 to 80 messages in less than two days! He also sent her many packages to her home via Amazon (including a stuffed Hello kitty doll and a CD collection from The Beatles). Yet Robert Herman denies being a stalker or harassing anyone!

    After reading his hostile messages against me, Alexandra wrote me: “His language is so crass! He does not seem very educated or very cultured. It is disrespectful of him to speak to my boyfriend in such a way. I cannot always make sense of Robert’s messages….but in his last message, he says something about my being gone soon- and possibly him being gone soon as well. I think it is time for me to sign up for a self defense class. He probably has a criminal record. My guess is he spent time in prison. Unless, of course, he has been in a mental hospital. So… I am not surprised that Robert believes that you are not able to offer me adequate support regarding my health, etc. He sees himself as being my “perfect match” -in keeping with the fantasy he has concocted. He lives within the fantasy, I think. That is where the danger lies….
    Robert is too delusional to see that is own behavior is causing me unnecessary physical and emotional stress. Yet he accuses you of not caring enough about me and my health.”

    Alexandra got increasingly worried by him. She wrote me: “and now here I am worried for my safety again. Robert is probably a sociopath. I spoke to my therapist about Robert and she does feel he could be dangerous. She says he is mentally unstable.” Alexandra also wrote me: “I am so physically unwell….I really do not need this unnecessary stress from him. I never asked him to target me. He sought me out. I never encouraged him! I am not feeling well. I know this latest turn of events with Robert contacting my good friend is affecting me. I think Robert may just be wanting to destroy me in any way he can. Maybe he hopes he could drive me to suicide. […] I am very glad you are across the ocean, Yves. I could not bear the idea that harm might come to you because of Robert’s obsession with me. “

    Ironically, now that she is in prison she can feel safer from Robert Herman!

    Reply
    • Many thanks, Yves, for your comprehensive comment. I’ll read it slowly later and perhaps at that time provide a fuller response. Thanks again.

      Reply
  4. I guess Robert, you did not see the news where they had 38 cats, including newborns in a cupholder in a car that was also filled with Trash. They really do need to get mental help for their hoarding. If they were really trying to save cats, they would find free or reduced spay or neutering.

    Reply

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