At Modern Luxury, connection and community define who we are. We use cookies to improve the Modern Luxury experience - to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also may share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. We take your privacy seriously and want you to be aware that we have recently made changes to our Privacy Policy, which can be found here.


Oakland Cat Lady Sentenced to Lose Her Cats

Andrea Powell | July 28, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Oakland's most extreme cat lady was sentenced to five years of felony probation on Friday, following the 2011 removal of over 100 cats from her home.

Jan Van Dusen, a 62-year-old attorney, was prohibited from keeping or caring for any pets for ten years after Oakland Animal Services found 104 cats (11 of them dead in a freezer) and two dogs in her West Oakland home. And no, these weren't the happiest dogs in the world: Most of the animals were severely malnourished and suffered from parasitic infections.

Strangely enough, just months before the raid, Van Dusen won a cat-related case against the IRS after she claimed a charitable deduction in caring for them. Her home-based charity "Fix Our Ferals" allegedly trapped stray cats and spayed or neutered them until they were ready for adoption. But Alameda County Judge Gloria Rhynes felt differently about the cats, ruling on Friday that Van Dusen is in denial about the conditions in her home. "She needs to be away from animals, in my view," said the judge. Van Dusen's defense attorney Frank Offen offered his best attempt to justify the obviously deplorable conditions, arguing that animal services caught Van Dusen in the midst of a "major diarrhea outbreak."

Following the raid, 18 cats were euthanized and dozens more received medical treatment. During that time, numerous supporters sent Van Dusen letters of admiration for her work as an attorney and a cat lady. It remains to be seen whether or not Van Dusen will be disbarred or suspended from practicing law. A review of her case by the State Bar of California is pending.

At press time, Van Dusen has not been banned from Oakland's soon-to-open cat cafe.

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Andrea Powell at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Andrea Powell on Twitter @AndreaPowellSF


Photography by: