AVON PARK, Fla. - Deputies found 72 dogs and cats in an Avon Park home, owned by a volunteer at an animal shelter.
The homeowner, Jinece Loughry, 66, is facing animal cruelty charges. She reportedly hasn't lived at the home since November.
Not all of the animals found in Loughry's house were still living; 49 living and 23 dead, packed into a 1,000-square-foot home on Memorial Blvd. Some of the dead animals were said to be heavily decomposed.
"You could tell how much [the animals] wanted to get out of there," said Scott Dressel, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office public information officer. "Even with a mask on, the smell was just permeating."
Neighbors said they could hear the barking.
"We will be outside, and we hear a ton of dogs and we don't know where they are coming from," said neighbor Joshua Curtis. "It sounded like a kennel."
Loughry was a volunteer with the Hardee Animal Rescue Team, though that group says the animals weren't adopted from them and they had no idea what she was doing in her personal time.
"She had the best intentions. It just got out of control. I think it got out of control a while ago," said Dressel. "The fact that she was a volunteer at an animal rescue means she had people who she could call."
The sheriff's office wants the county commission to require all rescues and animal foster homes to file paperwork with the county, which would bring on regular inspections of all facilities.
"So we know where these people are and we can go by and check, and if we see them starting to get in over their head and we can step in," said Dressel.
As deputies began to remove the animals, some of their seemingly lifeless bodies sprang up. Their lives of misery suddenly becoming ones of hope. Many will be put up for adoption.
"Even though they were still in crates, once we got them out in some fresh air, they all calmed down," said Dressel. "It was like they knew things were getting better."
Loughry is being held on a $72,000 bond.
Anyone interested in adopting can call (863) 781-2045 or visit www.hardeeanimalrescueteam.com.
Anyone with information on the animal cruelty case is asked to contact Detective Vincent Forest at 863-402-7250 or email email@example.com. Anonymous tips can be left with Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.