A Frostproof, Florida, woman has been arrested for animal cruelty and animal neglect charges after 164 birds, 142 cats and three dogs were seized from her property by police, who added the ammonia levels inside the home were “lethal.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that a deputy was dispatched to the home on Dec. 21 to conduct a welfare check on a 75-year-old woman who was reportedly living in a possible “hoarder situation” with cats inside the house.
When the officer arrived, he met with 48-year-old Lisa Lacharite in the front yard of the home, where the deputy told her he was there to conduct a welfare check on the older woman, who turned out to be Lacharite’s mother.
Lacharite allegedly told the officer she was her mother’s caregiver, adding that she had health issues.
Lacharite asked the officer to wait outside while she went inside to get her mother.
As the deputy waited, he reportedly noted a strong ammonia smell outside.
When Lacharite returned 15 minutes later, she told the deputy he could go inside and check on her mother.
The deputy first entered an enclosed porch where he saw several wire cages with about 75 chickens, peacocks and ducks, some of which appeared to be malnourished and sick, authorities said.
When the deputy went inside the home, the smell of ammonia became overwhelming, and he reported seeing 50 cats running around the house, climbing on furniture and sitting on kitchen counters.
Lacharite told the deputy she rescues cats and cares for chickens and birds.
Additional deputies and emergency crews responded to the scene.
While there, members of the Polk County Fire and Rescue collected air samples to evaluate for ammonia, which allegedly measured between 70 and 100 parts per million (ppm.)
The personnel advised that anything above 50 ppm was hazardous, and possibly lethal to human health, as well as animals.
Lacharite’s mother was removed from the home to prevent being exposed to the conditions any longer.
Lacharite was arrested on five counts of animal cruelty, 304 counts of animal neglect, and one count of neglecting an elder, and was transported to the Polk County Jail.
Lacharite allegedly admitted to deputies she knew the conditions of the residence were not good for humans or animals, adding that she was “overwhelmed” by the number of animals at the home, and it had become too much to manage.
All of the animals are expected to be evaluated by veterinarians before efforts take place to help find them new homes.