INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - A pet rescue facility is now empty. The SPCA of Indian River County says the owner was overwhelmed with animals and couldn't take care of them.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office won't release details. A spokesperson calls it an active investigation regarding animal welfare. The SPCA's president says it was a matter of life or death.
Video taken inside the organization called All Pet Rescue in Fort Pierce shows dozens of dogs inside cages in a large metal shed. SPCA President Van DeMars filmed the video. Volunteers who assisted with the rescue say the cages were dirty, many animals didn't have water and there was little ventilation.
"A couple of us almost blacked out trying to get them," says Jacque Petrone, founder of a pet rescue called HALO in Sebastian, "The heat was so intense."
DeMars says he knows the owner of All Pet Rescue.
"She admitted that she needed help," says DeMars.
DeMars says they seized 52 dogs last week from the property off Okeechobee Road and 23 cats on Wednesday after police and animal control were called in to help.
"I was heartbroken about the whole situation with the cats and seeing what they looked like," says Steven Brauer with HALO.
The cats were taken to Highlands Animals Hospital in Sebastian while the dogs were transported to HALO.
"I think there's going to be some respiratory stuff going on," says Petrone, "There's some heartworm in the dogs. They were all hungry. They were all overheated."
The SPCA says the owner was trying to help the homeless animals but was quickly overwhelmed.
"(I) call it 'compassion fatigue'," says DeMars, "People are so afraid of seeing animals in distress that they take them into their homes."
DeMars says it's happening more often. Petrone's group HALO says it rescued 50 animals last week from another private shelter that was overcrowded and couldn't take care of them.
"It happens very quickly," says DeMars, "It happens so fast that most people don't even know it's happened."
The investigation into All Pet Rescue is still open and no charges have been filed so far.
The organization has been operating for several years. On Wednesday, their website was down and their Facebook page had been removed.