Sheriff Grady Judd on animal hoarding: "It was a wretched mess"

5:52 PM, Mar 4, 2011   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida --  The smell of the Miranda Trail home where Polk County Sheriff's deputies seized 184 dogs is described as "putrid" and had rats that deputies say competed in size with some of the dogs.

"It would gag you.  It would be the burning sensation of the eyes that would get ammonia in your face," described Sheriff Grady Judd.

Photo Gallery: Pictures of the dogs removed from the home

Despite the "horrific" conditions of the home, Judd says he does not believe 61-year-old Bradley Roden and his 71-year-old wife Elizabeth let it happen in malice.

"They're not rescue folks, they're hoarders.  Quite frankly, these folks have a love of animals.  I don't think they have criminal mischief at heart.  I think that they're overwhelmed by the volume of animals," said Sheriff Judd.

Deputies say they were tipped off about the Rodens when their address came up in a similar investigation in Marion County.

Suspicions were confirmed when deputies went to check out the home on Miranda Trail and found at least 70 dogs running in and out of the mobile home.

A search warrant revealed even more animals, including an elderly pregnant chihuahua and a dog that has a bone protruding from one of his legs.

"As much as they think they're helping them, they're creating an absolutely miserable existence for them,' said the sheriff.

While the dogs appeared to be fed, many were found living in their own feces and urine, according to investigators.

"It was a wretched mess," said Sheriff Judd.

As a result, the Rodens are each facing 40 counts of animal cruelty and Bradley Roden was booked into the Polk County Jail on an additional charge of possession of a shortbarreled shot gun, which deputies say he'd use to "shoot the rats."

Elizabeth Roden was taken to the hospital and given a notice to appear in court.

"There is never an acceptable explanation.  She was distraught because these animals were her children," Sheriff Judd said.

This is not the couple's first run in with Animal Control.  Since 2003, they have been the center of seven different animal neglect investigations and have received several civil citations.

This time around, Sheriff Judd says the Rodens are facing a hefty fine of $17,117 in addition to the animal cruelty charges, because not one of the animals had proper registration or rabies vaccinations.

"What's difficult for us, what is exceptionally difficult for is we have another 184 dogs that we've got to deal with," said the sheriff.

Two Animal Control veterinarians spent most of the day Friday evaluating each of the dogs.  The vets say it appears most of the animals will be adoptable.

Sheriff Judd, who oversees Animal Control, hopes to start adopting out some of the dogs by mid next week.

Because the couple only surrendered 100 of the animals, the sheriff's office will have to fight for custody of the remaining dogs in court, so those animals will not be available for adoption right away.

There are others that will have to be kept in Animal Control custody until the animal cruelty investigations are complete.

Laura Kadechka, 10 News

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