SEBRING - When Highlands County deputies first arrived at the residence at 4315 Lakewood Road, they feared a human body was inside, as the odor coming from the home was so strong it could be smelled from the roadway, an arrest report said.
But, instead, they found animal feces in every room and 27 cats and 18 dogs that suffered from dehydration, malnutrition, fleas and in many cases, mange, the report said.
Michelle A. Brown, 59, 1029 Ward Circle, Oviedo, the occupant of the house at the time, was arrested and charged with 45 counts of felony animal neglect.
Brown told deputies she "got in over my head," in keeping so many animals and said she tried to give some or all to shelters, but they were full, the report said.
She also said she had difficulty talking care of the animals because she was out of work, but the report added that "she had a few shopping bags inside her vehicle with what appeared to be newly purchased items."
Deputies arrested her after discovering that the "animals were severely dehydrated, severely malnourished and were infested with fleas," the report said. "Some of the canines and felines appear to have mange throughout their body due to lack of care by Brown.
It was determined after removing the animals, three of the canines were found to be in grave condition and required immediate control by the Highlands County Animal Control.
"Due to the severe level of malnutrition, several of the canines were unable to even walk, and their skeletal structure was clearly visible," the report added.
The entire residence, including the garage, had animal feces, the report said. "Due to the amount of fecal matter on the floor within the residence, it was almost impossible to tell what the surface of the floor was."
Some of the animals were locked in crates that weren't large enough for them to stand up or turn around, the report said.
Some of the animals' food and water bowls contained a large amount of animal feces that appeared to be several weeks old, the report said.
"It appeared some animals were consuming their own fecal matter in order to survive, as there was fecal matter on several of the animal's faces."
"The odor emitting from the animals themselves was so potent that law enforcement on scene had to wear masks and personnel protective equipment in order to complete their assigned tasks," the report added.