Spinster Georgina Langley, 67, lives at a cottage in West Hougham and, since her mother died, has lived with only her pets for company.
She earned a reputation in the village as the "cat lady" and people would leave strays and unwanted pets with her.
On June 22 last year three RSPCA inspectors with police reinforcement swooped on her home and took away her 13 cats, four cockerels and her dog, Sweetie, who she had taken in at the request of villagers.
"It was the start of the most frightening ten months of my life," Miss Langley said. "I've never been in trouble with the police and had never seen the inside of a courtroom."
Within days she was told the RSPCA had put down five of her cats. Frightened Miss Langley contacted her vet, David Smith, who demanded to see the bodies.
Mr Smith of Lakeview Veterinary Centre – which operates in Hawkinge, Finglesham and Deal – said he had been left shocked by the way Miss Langley had been raided and asked the Royal Veterinary College to carry out an independent post-mortem examination on a ginger Tom and an adult female – which was pregnant with three kittens.
He said: "There appears to be no good reason why the RSPCA allowed these animals to be put to sleep. The RVC post mortems concluded the cats were healthy with no signs of incorrect feeding or problems with fleas or other illnesses."
The vet said he believed Miss Langley had become overwhelmed by the responsibility in a house where poor building work had left her with water leaks and lack of lighting.
Mr Smith said: "The inside of her house may not have been in a condition that many people would choose to live, but the animals were happy. This lady needed help and support, not hauling through the courts."
Miss Langley's court ordeal began in August when she was told she would face 13 charges of neglect and failing to look after her animals properly.
She was given legal aid to fight her case and was represented by Nigel Weller, a solicitor from East Sussex who has built a reputation fighting RSPCA court cases.
After three preliminary hearings, Miss Langley faced a three-day trial in March, but the RSPCA dropped 11 of the 13 charges. Miss Langley pleaded guilty to failing to get veterinary care quickly enough for two of her animals.
The animal charity pushed for court costs of £28,000, asking magistrates to make an order on the pensioner's home, and called for her to be banned from keeping animals.
But on Friday, April 20, magistrates ordered that Miss Langley's dog, cockerels and one cat should be returned. She was given a conditional discharge with no fine or costs imposed.
"It was such a relief," said Miss Langley. "I agreed the surviving cats could be rehomed and I would keep just one. I cannot believe an organisation like the RSPCA could be so heavy-handed – I would never treat anyone the way they have treated me."
The RSPCA said it had no plans to review its use of vets following criticism the five cats should not have been destroyed and maintained that it works with people who find difficulty looking after their animals .
Spokeswoman Klare Kennett said: "We tried to help Miss Langley, but were turned away, so had no choice but to take the animals into our care."
She said the costs of £28,000 covered the charity's bill for bringing the case to court.
Miss Langley, who walks with a stick because she needs a new hip, now receives home visits twice a week through Social Services to help her cope at home.