INVERNESS (FOX 13) - Citrus County Animal Control rescued dozens of cats from an Inverness woman's home in a case investigators called a unique example of someone who loved animals so much she ended up hurting them.
At least 31 cats were found inside a home belonging to Barbara Smith, 75, and are now being cared for at Citrus County Animal Services.
Animal Control Supervisor Lora Peckham described the conditions in Smith's home as practically unlivable, with fur, food and far worse things carpeting the floor.
"I've been in dozens of these types of houses and this one was really hard to breathe," Peckham said Tuesday.
Investigators said many of the cats were in cages while some were loose in the house. Peckham said Smith didn't seem to realize she was doing more harm to the animals than good.
"I believe that her heart was in the right place. She told us that she took in any cat that anyone asked her to rescue because she felt like she was making a difference," Peckham said, adding Smith did recognize she had too many cats to physically care for, but didn't recognize the treatment as inhumane. "I don't think that she really understands the magnitude of what proper care is, that proper care is more than food and water. It's more than just loving them."
Smith was given a notice to appear in court but was not arrested. She's facing animal cruelty charges.
Neighbors said they knew Smith loved cats but didn't realize things had gotten out of hand.
"She was a very nice lady. She got along with everybody, took care of the neighborhood cats," said Richard Phelps, who lives across the street. "She could have asked for help though. She's always doing stuff herself. If she asked her neighbors I'm sure we would have helped her out. We thought she was doing a good job. She was always feeding them, always out there feeding them and seeing her buying cat litter and food and all that."
Smith willingly surrendered the cats to authorities.
Peckham said one of the cats had to be euthanized immediately. Most of the others are expected to be OK and eventually available for adoption.