A request for a simple welfare check apparently blew the lid off of a 10-year animal abuse scandal that spanned four states.
Nancy Lee Freeman, 74, and her 41-year-old daughter, Katherine Freeman, have been arrested on multiple animal cruelty charges after sheriff’s deputies from Citrus County, Florida, went to check on the pair on July 10 after a cremation company couldn’t contact them to return the remains of a deceased pet.
No one was home, but deputies walked in on a nightmare. They reportedly found four severely starved dogs, 13 cats and a turtle without food or water. They also found a horse decaying in a stall and 10 caged rabbits — five of which were dead. The remaining five didn’t have food or water.
The horror didn’t end there — deputies said they also found a bag that contained the liquefied remains of several dogs and dead cats in garbage bags. WFLA reported neighbors told deputies there were two more horses buried on the property.
Animal control officers rescued all of the surviving animals, including four horses, the five rabbits and eight goats. One of the surviving horses was a retired race horse that was a direct descendant of the legendary Secretariat, The Daily Beast reported.
The case goes far beyond the abuse. Nancy and Katherine allegedly used multiple aliases which were used in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.
In 2005, Nancy and Katherine were tried for neglecting several horses and dogs. Though Nancy, a former nursing professor, was acquitted, Katherine was sentenced to 90 days in jail. The women also allegedly rented homes in several states and left without paying rent.
In 2010, the Woodford County Animal Control of Kentucky investigated the pair for animal cruelty and they apparently fled the area in the middle of the night, owing Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital $21,205 for the treatment of two horses and Tri-City Small Animal Clinic an additional $141.
Citrus County animal control supervisor Lora Peckham said some of the rescued animals were also stolen. “These people are con artists, and in their wake (left) dozens of dead animals all across the country.”
She said that the case was atypical. “We don’t typically see professional people and well-educated people, in particular people in the medical field. It’s baffling.”
“Dead cats had literally been thrown out with the egg carton and the milk carton,” she added. “Thrown into the garbage can in the house.”
Nancy has cancer, which she allegedly exploited for donations. Authorities have not disclosed any information on her condition.
This story does have something of a happy ending. Almost of the animals who were rescued have been adopted and none of them have been euthanized.