SEBRING - In different sections of the Highlands County Animal Control facility, newly arrived cats meowed and dogs - many appearing to be far below their normal body weight - wagged their tails Tuesday, two days after having been rescued from a feces-filled house where they apparently had very little food and water.
Some of the animals appeared very skinny, but most appeared as though they were regaining energy after being provided with adequate food and water.
"It's been a while since we've had anything of this magnitude," said Darryl Scott, the manager of the facility. He said it was fortunate the facility's animal population has been lower than normal.
In all, 27 cats and 18 dogs, many having mange and being covered with fleas, were removed June 8 from the home of Michelle A. Brown, 59, 4315 Lakewood Road, Sebring. The Highlands County Sheriff's Office arrested Brown and charged her with 45 counts of felony animal neglect.
Despite that the animals were neglected, only two of the dogs have had to be euthanized, said Dr. John Young, a veterinarian taking care of three of the dogs and a cat.
"They just weren't treated very well," Young said. He said the animals were cleaned, fed and dewormed and the three dogs and a cat appear to be headed toward recovery.
Young said the animals have been very pleasant to deal with, but are a "little nervous."
Bethany Burnett, an employee at Highlands County Animal Control, said she was "very surprised" when all the dogs and cats arrived and that "most of them were in very poor condition."
"It was a very sad situation," Burnett said.
She said the dogs and cats appeared to be happy to be out of the situation they endured at Brown's residence.
Scott said that generally the cats were in better condition than the dogs. He said that he's happy that most of the dogs are small and that they are easy to get adopted.
But it could be some time before the animals are available for adoption. That's because the Highlands County Sheriff's Office has custody of the dogs and cats, which are evidence in the case against Brown.
Brown told authorities that the care and upkeep of so many dogs and cats overwhelmed her.
The Highlands County Humane Society has offered to help get the animals adopted as well as upkeep.
Judy Spiegel, the president of the society, said she hates to see such a situation.
"It's heartbreaking," she said.
She said that she's hoping animal lovers will come forward and open their homes and hearts to the cats and dogs.