French couple who kept 159 cats banned from keeping pets

A French couple have been given a one-year suspended sentence for keeping dozens of animals in cruel conditions.

The couple, from Nice, had kept 159 cats and seven dogs in their 80sqm (861sqft) flat.

Animals were discovered last year living in filth, many dehydrated, suffering from malnutrition or infected with parasites.

The judge said the couple had failed to take appropriate care of the animals.

The couple, a woman, 68, and a 52-year-old man, were also issued with a permanent ban on keeping pets. They were ordered to pay more than €150,000 (£128,000) to animal rights' charities and civil parties.

Last year, police intervened in a dispute at the couple's flat and discovered the dozens of animals in each room. Authorities reported animal excrement everywhere.

Some of the cats and dogs subsequently died due to their poor health.

Investigators found the bodies of at least two cats and two dogs in a bathroom.

The owner of the flat told the court that the animals were "the love of her life" but that she had "screwed up".

She had apparently taken her parents' three cats and three dogs in 2018, before bringing around 30 cats living in an abandoned building to her flat. These animals had subsequently reproduced.

She said she would have felt herself "abandoned for leaving [the animals] abandoned".

A psychiatric assessment diagnosed her with "Noah's syndrome" - a psychological need to save animals, even when incapable of properly doing so.

Prosecutors had requested an 18-month prison sentence.

The couple had already been investigated in 2014 for living in an 18sqm studio with 13 cats and a dog.