Investigators removed 44 cats and dogs from a West Palm Beach home on Monday afternoon. Thirty-six cats and eight dogs were taken from a residence in the 800 block of Briggs Street in West Palm Beach, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Officials with Palm Beach Animal Care and Control said they'd seen this before. An officer was responding to a separate complaint on Briggs Street when he accidentally made the discovery Sunday evening. The officer knocked on the wrong door and, after speaking a while to the woman who answered, he realized that he recognized her.
Officers returned to the home Monday to investigate
Captain David Walesky told WBPF25 News that Monday’s seizure was just the latest incident for an ever-expanding community of “underground rescue" groups.
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These are groups or a few individuals that are unlicensed and independent and just start picking up animals from the streets or taking them (called “pulling”) from shelters, he explained.
"They're housing them with good intentions that they're going to be able to find them homes, but the reality is there's not enough homes for all these animals," Walesky said.
There are hundreds of "underground rescue" groups in South Florida, Walesky believes.
The legitimate shelters from which they “pull” are overcrowded and happy the animals have a place to stay, but the fate of these animals is increasingly in a house where they suffer and many die under horrific conditions of starvation, dehydration and lying in their own feces and urine. Often dozens to hundreds of animals are in small filthy cages in which they cannot even stand up for months.
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Most of the underground rescue groups are responsible, Walesky said. But there are some that get out of control and keep taking more and more animals, thinking they're helping, but they’re not.
"How helpful are you if you're putting…over 40 animals in this small house and you're not able to care for them properly?" he asked.
The woman in the home raided Monday has been through this before. She's not being identified because she has not yet been charged in Monday's case.
Walesky told WBPF25 News that his team had to remove animals from her care just a few months ago. That case ended with a court order limiting her to only two dogs. It appears she ignored that order and went back to being an underground rescue, he said.
The animals showed signs of neglect, said Dianne Sauve, director for Animal Care and Control. As of Monday evening, at least one cat was extremely sick, the Palm Beach Post reported.
“It’s just really disturbing,” Sauve said of the animals’ over conditions.
The case will be turned over to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.
Walkesky said this time he's hoping she'll face criminal charges. "We don't have problems with the animals," he said. "We have problems with the people."