Pennsylvania parents David and Rebecca Detjen, are being charged with four counts of felony neglect of a dependent.
41-year-old David and 40-year-old Rebecca were arrested in Indiana, for traveling with their five kids and their cats.
They motivated their decision by explaining they wanted to move to California, and were completely bankrupt. Detjen, who had lost his job, had found a position in San Bernardino, and was relocating the entire family.
"They were down on their luck for sure. They didn't have a car. This was a last-ditch effort to follow up on a possible job in San Bernardino (in California). But it still was an unwise decision (to allow family members to travel in the cargo area). The dad has told investigators he knew it was a bad idea," Sgt. John D. Bowling of the Indiana State Police says.
Allowing 5 kids and 18 cats to sit in the back of a moving van didn't sit well with arresting officers, who believe the parents were not looking after the infants' safety.
The parents were seated in the cab, with their other two children, while the kids in the back of the van, aged between 9 and 18, would communicate with them by talking on cellphones.
They sat among boxes of cargo, with two resting on stacks that could have fallen at any time. In addition to that, the temperature in the van was below freezing point, and the passengers were in danger of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, the Examiner reports.
The Detjens are in jail, with the possibility of putting out $5,000 (€3,850) bail. Their seven children, of which one is 18, have been taken by child services, while their pets were brought to Henry County Animal Control.