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Sarasota Animal Services rescue more than 350 dogs from Venice home

11:24 PM, May 4, 2012   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida -- It's believed to be one of the largest cases of animal hoarding in Sarasota County history.

Deputies say they've rescued 360 dogs over the last three days from a Venice woman's home in a situation that appeared went from breeding to animal hoarding.

Stacked in cages like chicken coops is how deputies found hundreds of dogs living in the back yard of the home on Hide Point Drive. Strips of metal or tarps serve as the animals' only shelter from the elements. 

Photo Gallery: Over 350 animals rescued from Venice home

"Their fur all matted down, laying in their own waste. They're not meant to be living inside metal cages like chickens," says Lt. Scott Ortner, the director of Sarasota Animal Services.

"Oh my God, he's so matted. You are in bad shape little fella," says one animal services volunteer as they tag and weigh each dog.

The dogs are small breeds including Poodles, Maltese, Chihuahuas and Jack Russells.

"It's not abuse but neglect care for animals. The animals are not underfed," says Lt. Ortner.

Deputies say the dog owner voluntarily signed over custody of the animals to the sheriff's office.

"One statement she made she does not believe in euthanasia she felt this is better than putting animals to sleep," says Lt. Ortner.

Animal rescue groups from as far away as Orlando are caring for 70 of the dogs.

"It's a going to be a long road for them. They need to be healthy cleaned up and also be trained. People need to be patient teach them how to be house trained," says Shona Otto, a volunteer with Underdog Rescue.

"We think most if not all will find a good home," says Lt. Ortner.

Otto says, "They're adorable despite how, gross and dirty and disgusting they're adorable. You can tell they will be beautiful when they are all cleaned up."

One volunteer caring for the animals tells a copper-colored Maltese dog, "This is the beginning of a wonderful life."

Sarasota Animal Services officials are asking for help from rescue groups first and then foster families. If you'd like to foster you can apply online but if you are interested in adopting they ask you wait to call animal services until next week this way volunteers have time to care for the animals.

The sheriff's office has not released the name of the dog owner. Investigators say the case is still open and charges of animal neglect are pending.

Isabel Mascarenas

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