Diane Carle, Palm Beach Cat Lady: "I'm Not A Criminal" (New Times Exclusive)

Categories: Animal Planet

One day six months ago, neighbors in Lake Worth started complaining, Waleski said. They'd heard strange things. They'd seen dozens of cats around the house.

Soon Carle heard a knock at the door. She creaked it open, releasing a smell of shit and death. Police said they were there to help her, she recalled. They just wanted to come inside for a minute.

Carle declined, maintaining her privacy for six more months until the police, after discerning probable suspicion, obtained a search warrant and forced their way inside.

This upset Carle very much. "It was bullshit," she said. "They have their laws and their regulations. Do you think I'm the only person in the City of Lake Worth who has cats? There are lots of people out there who hate animals. I love animals."

After police and the animal control agencies gathered the cats, they told Carle she was perhaps sick. They said she may suffer from a psychological syndrome known as "hoarding" -- characterized by compulsive acquisition of materials.

Conversation concerning the disorder assuages Carle's temper. "Do you think I'm the only person in Palm Beach who has this problem?" she asked. "Or whatever you want to call it? This hoarding? There's a lot of people who have this. I know it. This just got out of control."

As of now, Carle hasn't been charged with anything, and is still driving her school bus every day. Harrington said the school district can't take any punitive measures against her until charges are brought, if they ever are.

Until then, Carle says she's getting used to being cat-less. At first, her days were dark and sad. But now, things aren't so bad. Carle, who says she has no plans of buying more cats, likes being alone.

"I don't care who abandons me," she said. "It's my business."

Follow the writer @terrence_mccoy.

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