Animal-neglect plea possible for woman who ran rat-overrun Critter Cafe Rescue

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Aug 4, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

MUSKEGON, MI – A prosecutor and the attorney for Christine Lea Bishop, who ran the rat-overrun Critter Café Rescue, conferred with a Muskegon judge Monday about a possible guilty or no-contest plea in the felony animal-neglect case against Bishop.

The outcome wasn’t an immediate plea Aug. 3, but that could happen soon.

“Discussions about a possible plea are ongoing,” Chief Trial Attorney Matt Roberts of the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office said after he and Bishop’s attorney, Susan Knoll, met with Muskegon County Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks.

Bishop, 53, of Fruitport Township was arraigned July 6 on one count of “animals-abandoning or cruelty to 10 or more,” a felony. The accusation is that she neglected animals, not that she was intentionally cruel to them.

Prosecutors allege, based on an evaluation  by a local veterinarian, that many of the animals found in her possession were neglected.

Bishop is charged as a third-time habitual offender based on prior convictions of larceny in a building in 2014 in Ottawa County and delivery of a controlled substance in 1994 in Muskegon County.

Bishop is free on bond, and prosecutors said earlier they’re not asking for any incarceration. Instead they’re requesting that the judge order a mental-health evaluation with possible supervision in the Mental Health Court. Prosecutors also recommend a long term of probation and that Bishop not be allowed to care for any animals until a further court order.

That arrangement was discussed and agreed to by Fruitport Township officials, the township’s police department and Muskegon County Animal Control, Chief Assistant Priosecutor Timothy M. Maat said earlier.

Bishop’s animal rescue operation at 5818 Airline Road, across from Fruitport Township Hall, was effectively shut down by authorities in mid-May after it was overrun by more than 1,000 domestic rats. Bishop, who had rented the house, was barred from living there, and the animals were removed.

The rats were the offspring of domestic pet rats an unidentified person dropped off outside her home without Bishop’s knowledge, she has said. Her supporters say she was overwhelmed by the number of animals at her home but that she does valuable animal-rescue work.

Bishop is receiving a great deal of public support, her attorney said Monday.

An on-line petition asking that all charges against Bishop be dropped claimed 698 supporters as of Monday morning, Aug. 3.

Many letters supporting her have also been sent to the prosecutor’s office and the judge.

John S. Hausman covers courts, prisons, the environment and local government for MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at  and follow him on Twitter.

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