CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The owner of Critterville, an animal shelter in Citrus County, has been charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies said they responded to a residence off East Yale Lane in Hernando last week after receiving a call requesting a well-being check on the animals in the home.
The sheriff’s office said deputies and animal control officers have been monitoring the home for several years, which is the location of an animal shelter called Critterville.
Deputies and animal control officers said they were led to the backyard and found several dirty sheds and enclosures where most of the animals were housed.
As they investigated the area, officials said they noticed a strong odor of ammonia and found urine-soaked floors, overflowing litterboxes and fecal matter scattered across nearly every surface.
Investigators said several cats were extremely sick and covered in flea with urine and feces matted into their fur.
When animal control officers opened a cage, they said they found a cat that was assumed to have been dead for several days inside.
Deputies said they moved to the patio, which was cluttered with debris and extremely small cages containing five dogs.
Next to the cages, deputies said they found a refrigerator filled with rotten food and dead maggots.
Animal control officers said they opened the freezer door and found two blankets wrapped around a large item and zip-tied shut. Inside, they said they found two dead cats.
Inside the home, officials said they found several more dogs and cats with oily, matted fur and covered in fleas. They said most of the animals were sick with numerous other medical issues.
In the back of the house, officials said they found 13 more cats covered in fleas.
“It’s disturbing to see animal abuse and neglect cases in Citrus County – this is an inexcusable act. This so-called shelter’ is undeniably repulsive to see,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of our ACO team for vigilantly following up on this case and thankful for our partnership with the Citrus County Animal Shelter. These teams work endlessly to assist these helpless animals and provide them with the proper care that they deserve.”
Citrus County deputies said 35 cats and seven dogs were rescued from the residents.
The owner of Critterville, 56-year-old Lisa Bennett, was arrested and charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty and four counts of aggravated animal cruelty with a total bond of $47,000.