NORTH PORT (FOX 13) - A welfare check ended in the discovery of dozens of cats - and some remains of cats - and the arrest of the man deputies believe was responsible for the animals.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said 60-year-old Andrew Gerberich was arrested at his North Port home and charged with failing to provide adequate food, water and medical care for 35 cats.
Animal services officers went to the home at 5004 White Ibis Drive on Friday, June 24 for a welfare check after the North Port Fire Department reported several cats living in deplorable conditions. When officers went inside, they said cat feces, urine and garbage were scattered throughout the home.
They had to wear masks and could only stay inside for a short time due to the smell, the sheriff's office said.
A total of 26 live cats were removed from the home, and remains of nine dead cats were also found, most of which were skeletal remains.
Deputies said Gerberich surrendered the rest of the cats to animal services, and the animals were getting medical attention. Several of the cats had eye, ear and upper respiratory infections. Officers also believed some of the cats resorted to cannibalism for food.
Investigators said Gerberich told them he got the cats while working as a cat rescue, but due to financial struggles, he became unable to care for them.
He was charged with 35 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals and 26 counts of confinement of animals without sufficient food and water. He was held in the Sarasota County Jail on $915,000 bond.