FALL RIVER (CBS) – A 71-year-old Fall River woman is facing 12 counts of animal cruelty after police said five dead cats and several others emaciated and infested with lice were removed from her home.

Doris Melanson hoarded the animals at her Slade Street home, police said. The home has since been condemned.

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Fall River officers William R. Silvia and Kevin Guerreiro, Animal Control Officer Kate Perry-Borges and MSPCA Law Enforcement Officer Chelsea Weiand responded to the 1300 block of Slade Street on July 20 for a welfare check at Melanson’s home.

Two cats rescued from the home of a Fall River woman now charged with animal cruelty. (Photo: MSPCA)

Police found 15-20 cats on the property but were unable to make contact with Melanson, who was at work. She was notified and returned to her home.

Police then found the five dead cats inside the home, along with 10 other cats and one rabbit living in deplorable conditions.

The surviving animals were brought to the MSPCA Animal Resource and Adoption Center on Cape Cod.

According to the MSPCA, all of the cats – six adults and four kittens – are infested with lice, which is extremely contagious and requires the cats to be treated and isolated from other cats for the next several weeks.

“We’ve taken in animals from hoarding houses in the past and they’re always very scared and sometimes in ill health—but these animals are as sick and dirty as any we have seen recently,” said Mary Sarah Fairweather, director of the MSPCA-Cape Cod.

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One of the cats rescued is treated at the MSPCA facility on Cape Cod. (Photo: MSPCA)

The cats are also underweight and are being treated for serious ear, eye and respiratory infections.  Several of the adult cats will also require significant dental work, but Fairweather expects all of the animals to recover and be placed for adoption.

The rabbit, a male white and black “Hotot” breed, has deformed front legs, believed to have been the result of being kept in a small cage for most of his life. He remains at a nearby veterinary hospital for treatment.

“The cats are starting to feel much better now that they’re getting treatment for their eyes and ears, along with nutritious food and clean water,” said Fairweather.  “It’s incredibly gratifying to our staff and volunteers to help them grow healthier by the day.”

Fairweather reports that the cats, who upon arrival were scared stiff in the backs of their cages, are now incredibly friendly and outgoing.

“They are some of the friendliest cats we’ve ever housed.  They love to head butt each other and our staff and volunteers. They’re going to make wonderful pets,” she said.

Potential adopters are encouraged to email capeadoptions@mspca.org for more information about the animals or visit them in person during open hours at the MSPCA-Cape Cod in Centerville.

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Melanson will be summoned to court on the animal cruelty charges at a later date.