ASPCA, cops collar animal abuser in Phoenicia

By Jay Braman Jr.
After being watched for almost a year, a 52-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with failing to provide proper sustenance to a dog and faces further charges in connection with 40 dogs that were found in cages and without food or water, according to the Ulster County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA.)Rescued DogRescued Dog

Her number came up last week after moving the animals to a new location in Phoenicia, ironically a closed pet store, along Route 28 just outside the hamlet.

Marie Castaldo of the Super 8 Motel in Kingston was arrested Thursday night by SPCA investigators, Shandaken Police and the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, and charged with one count of failure to provide proper sustenance to animals.

According to Brian Shapiro, the SPCA’s executive director, 39 additional counts are pending.  He said the arrest followed a year-long investigation.

Shapiro said the dogs were discovered in the empty storefront of the former Phoenicia Feed Store at 1026 Old Route 28 in Phoenicia and were in varying states of poor medical condition.
He said they had no food or water and were covered in their own wastes. He called it a classic case of animal hoarding and said the animals had “no quality of life whatsoever.”

According to information provided by the SPCA, it is not clearly understood why people become animal hoarders. Early research pointed toward a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but new studies and theories are leading toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss, while others see themselves as “rescuers” who save animals from a life on the street.

“Historically, collecting animals was viewed as an animal lover who gets in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard are at a total loss of insight,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President for Anti-Cruelty Initiatives and Legislative Services. “They have no real perception of the harm they’re doing to the animals.”

In the majority of cases, animal hoarders often appear intelligent and clearly believe they are helping their animals. They often claim that any home is better than letting that animal die. In addition, many hoarders possess the ability to garner sympathy and often deceive others into thinking their situation is under control. They are blind to the fact that they are not caring for the animals or of the extreme suffering they are inflicting.

According to Dr. Lockwood, “Being kept by a hoarder is a slow kind of death for the animal. Actually, it’s a fate worse than death.”

The SPCA seized all of the dogs, some of which are now receiving emergency medical care at the shelter in Kingston. Others are tenants at the Town of Shandaken Animal Shelter.

Shapiro said the investigation is continuing. After her arrest, a man who knew Shapiro came forward and surrendered another dog along with nine pups, saying that Shapiro had been keeping them in another location. Police are also looking into allegations that Castaldo sold dogs from her “collection” in the parking lot of a local supermarket.

Castaldo was arraigned and sent to Ulster County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.

So severe is the case, one local restaurant is working with the SPCA to host a fundraiser to pay for the care of the animals.

To send a donation go to the UCSPCA website at
or to the local town shelter, which is S.A.V.E (Shandaken animal volunteer effort), call 845-688-7165 for more information.