DES MOINES, Iowa — Two people have been arrested in an animal neglect investigation after police said they kept multiple cats confined to a van in grossly unsanitary conditions and without adequate food and water. Three of the cats died.

Christopher Lester, 51, and Cheryl Lewis, 44, were booked into the Polk County Jail Monday afternoon. They are each charged with three counts of animal neglect resulting in death and four counts of animal neglect resulting in injury.

The cats were discovered on November 17th after the van was towed from the parking lot of an apartment building in the 2900 block of Merle Hay Road. Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department said Lester and Lewis had been staying with a friend at the apartment complex.

Once the van arrived at the tow company’s lot, employees noticed the cats inside the vehicle. Sgt. Parizek said the cats were in a large wire kennel and three of them were deceased. He called the conditions “unliveable.” Skeletal remains were all that was left of one of the cats. It appeared no one had been caring for the cats for some time, said Sgt. Parizek.

The remaining four cats had fleas, ear mites, and suffered from poor nutrition according to court documents in the case. The cats are now being cared for by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Lester and Lewis are scheduled to be arraigned in the case on January 5, 2023.

If you are experiencing issues that prevent you from providing your pet with the care it needs, the ARL has resources available. Contact the ARL for more information on help for your pet.