AVON PARK, Fla. — Highlands County deputies arrested a 66-year-old woman on animal cruelty charges. The Highlands County Sheriff's Office found nearly 50 dogs and cats inside a home on Memorial Drive in Avon Park. Deputies also discovered 23 dead animals.
"I was sick to my stomach. I'm a huge animal lover and I saw a bunch of animal trucks out there and immediately thought the worst. We heard nothing but non-stop barking," said neighbor Joshua Curtis.
Jinece Elizabeth Loughry was charged with 72 counts of animal cruelty after 49 animals were taken from her home on Thursday.
"There were some that were shut in a back bedroom when they opened the door they came pouring out, but the kennels were stacked 3 high in the living room and then the side room there were more kennels stacked up," said Scott Dressel with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
Other animals were found in various stages of decomposition, according to the sheriff's office.
"It was a pretty nasty scene. Even deputies that had seen a lot of stuff were commenting abut the smell with the dead animals and decomposing animals in there," said Dressel.
The HCSO had received no complaints about the home until a tip alerted them on Thursday to the situation.
Loughry was a volunteer for the Hardee Animal Rescue Team (HART). The rescue told ABC Action News they were unaware of the situation happening at Loughry's home. Deputies do not know how Loughry acquired all the animals.
HART helped the Highlands County Sheriff's Office rescue nearly 50 animals.
"Talking to the rescue that took them, they said there was a lot of them surprisingly in pretty good shape and would be available for adoption pretty quickly," said Dressel.
"They didn’t have any idea that this was going on and when they found out, they immediately gathered up people and three or four different vehicles and brought a bunch of crates over here so we could get the animals out," added Dressel.
Anyone interested in adoption can call 863-781-2045 or click here for more information.
This case is still under investigation. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Det. Vincent Forest at 863-402-7250.