WELLINGTON, Fla.- — An active criminal investigation into possible animal cruelty in Orange County has direct ties to Palm Beach County.
Nearly 90 cats were found inside a box truck after renters were forced out of their home in Wellington, said investigators.
The backyard of Lindsay Reagan’s home looks like a piece of paradise, but she suffers from emphysema and says living next to another townhome on Westhampton Circle in Wellington has been a nightmare for the past five years.
“The smell that came out of this property was atrocious, you could hardly walk by without the smell making your eyes water,” Reagan said.
Photos taken inside the townhome by code enforcement show holes in the ceiling, mold on the walls, a dirty toilet and shower and cat feces on the floor.
“They were peeing all over my house, all over my front door,” said Suzanne Jones, who lives two doors down.
Neighbors tell WPTV they’ve been complaining for years. The Village of Wellington says its hands have been tied without any consent from the tenant or owner to go inside. But last month, code enforcement and Animal Care and Control finally received permission, and once inside, they deemed the home unfit for occupancy. The Village said it has never seen a case of animal hoarding like this one before.
“We were able to see not only the issue related to some of the pet issues and pet hoarding issues that were existing on the property but some of the lack of upkeep and lack of regular maintenance,” said Jim Barnes, assistant village manager.
On August 14, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office says deputies found the tenants of the home near Orlando with nearly 90 cats inside a U-Haul truck, and back of the truck was 90-plus degrees.
An investigation is ongoing in Orange County.
The Village of Wellington says the bottom floor of the home on Westhampton Circle was only occupied by cats, and the renters did not believe in kitty litter or boxes. Officials say the tenants lived upstairs.
“Laws need to be changed so when you see animal abuse, you see animal hoarding and you know there’s health and sanitary issues that somebody can get in there and rectify it,” Reagan said.
Over the phone, the owner of the home told WPTV he was aware of the complaints about his tenants. He says he hired a contractor and applied for a permit to do interior demolition.
The owner of the home has been cited, and the case will go in front of a special magistrate on October 17.