261 Dogs Seized from Polk Co FL “Rescue”

There are 3 notices highlighted in red/white on the home page of this FL Labrador Retriever rescue’s website.  Two of the notices are to remind applicants to pay the $25 application fee if you want to be considered for adopting a dog.  (If you are approved, they’ll knock the $25 off the $265 fee required to actually adopt a dog.)  The other notice is that there is a “temporary hold on pet surrenders”.   To wit:

In what authorities are calling the largest case of animal abuse in Polk County history, a Polk City husband and wife were arrested Thursday and each charged with 261 counts of animal cruelty.


Upon investigation, Animal Control officers and Sheriff’s Office deputies found 226 dogs and 35 puppies of various breeds malnourished, infested with fleas and parasites and in very poor health.


“According to the deputies that were on scene during the investigation, the house wasn’t fit for humans or animals,” [Polk Sheriff Grady] Judd said. “Our deputies had to wear gas masks or protective cover over their mouth and noses because the stench (of urine and feces) was so bad in the house.”

Judd said one of the dogs died while the animals were being removed from home for transport to the Animal Control center for examination and treatment.

According to the O’Malleys’ arrest affidavit, dogs were found in every area of the 3,000-square-foot house – the kitchen, the bathrooms, the three bedrooms, the closets and the porches.

In addition to the inhumane living conditions, a Vet found that many of the dogs had hookworms and whipworms, were severely malnourished with ribs and spines easily visible, and likely had not been fed in several days.  The dogs had apparently eaten a black leather couch as well as part of the couple’s bed.

The dog breeds included Labrador retriever, golden retriever, lab mixes, great Dane, cattle dogs, sharpei, dalmation [sic], shepherd mixes, bulldog and Belgian malinois.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, several of the dogs had not been neutered or spayed, which is a violation of policy for animal rescue organizations.

Perhaps this is where the “lab mixes” referenced above comes in.

Is this a case of well intentioned rescuers becoming overwhelmed?  Or maybe just plain old bad people trying to make a buck off “rescue”?  Something else?  I have no idea.  While I understand that rescues count on adoption fees to help cover operating expenses, I do have a thing about rescues charging too much money.

Let’s face it, if I want a Lab mix or a even a garden variety purebred Lab, I can go to my local shelter and get one, probably neutered and vaccinated, for far less than $265.  And in the case of this “rescue”, they either couldn’t afford to feed the dogs or simply were refusing to do so.

In these circumstances, perhaps it would have been best to stop accepting dogs before you got arrested for animal cruelty and maybe to have adopted a bunch out at greatly reduced fees – at least until you got your number of dogs down to a manageable level.  I am not sure where these folks got the idea that $265 is a reasonable fee to adopt a malnourished dog loaded with intestinal parasites and living in filth.  Even at my local kill shelter, they at least clean the kennels regularly and you know – feed the dogs.

2 thoughts on “261 Dogs Seized from Polk Co FL “Rescue”

  1. A week after this bust and we’re still reeling from it down here in Polk Cty. Little news is coming out about it but here’s some observations …

    1. These people were a registered 501C rescue.

    2. There were never any neighbor complaints

    3. They maintained jobs and there were never any complaints from either their employer as to smelly clothes or even neighbors as to too much barking while they were at work. I dunno but I find that impressive with over 200 dogs.

    4. Originally, they were held on over 100K bonds apeice and both were released with no bond.

    5. Reports do show dogs that were thin but it appears to me they took in anything and everything … they apparently did not believe in euthanizing anything for any reason. And it looks like they were doing a lot of free feeding … not my idea of a wise plan for that number of dogs but in that kind of situation, it would make sense to me that some were going to get more food than others.

    6. Reports I’ve read say that the police came back w/a warrent and *storm-trooped* the place. I have no where that number of dogs but if anyone broke into my house with shouting and guns etc in large impressive authorative behaviors and numbers, I’m sure that a couple of my dogs are going to poop and pee themselves. Some might even get territorial and aggressive.

    7. Vet reports some thinness, some tarter on teeth and worms. Hello … they were a rescue and these were essentially dogs that NO BODY wanted. I betcha on a good day, shelters will have thin sickly dogs with tarter on their teeth.

    8. I’ve read *glowing* reports on No Kill Nation about how wonderfully this was handled by our sheriff and that he emptied out the kennel by offering $5 adoptions. I also find it interesting that a couple of weeks prior to this event, the sheriff’s department stated in a newspaper report that the AC doesn’t adopt out rotties, pitbulls or chows. I presume that means mixes of too. So I’m assuming that there was some killing going on. Maybe they don’t quite deserve the attention they are getting for this. Maybe they do but it seems there’s a lot of posturing over something that may or may not be the exact truth and yes, I know that no kill doesn’t mean that everything is saved but it does mean that a dog isn’t killed simply because of it’s breed.

    9. Currently, they are in negotiation over the future of these dogs … the ones that no one wants but these rescuers. AC says that rescue is ready to take them and maybe that’s true but the dogs that are listed on pet-finder from this rescue are ALL listed as mixes. Are there that many rescue groups that can take mixes? Where were they before this all started? They are upset that Ac will s/n them and then other rescues will benefit from that. It sounds to me again, that’s what they needed in the first place. Our low-cost s/n clinic … not so low cost these days.

    I’m not trying to stick up for these rescuers. I happen to believe they may have been over-whelmed and maybe even a bit too controlling … maybe even a tad nuts … but at the same time many people down here are speaking up, saying they’ve adopted from them and they are lovely people. Bottom line, I don’t think the Sheriff should have storm-trooped this place (maybe the one dog wouldn’t have died and maybe there wouldn’t have been so much pee and poop all over the place) and I’m don’t think they deserved to be hauled off to jail in hand-cuffs.

    Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have done a little investigation? Maybe send an officer by, say heard you have a lot of dogs and can we help out? Is your licensing up to date, whatever?

    It might not have ended any differently but …

    Wouldn’t you rather be treated that way?

    Just some thoughts on the situation.

  2. Some more interesting tidbits on this case from some rescuers who know these people.

    These folks have helped out a lot of rescues in the state in one form another. Always available for transport, homechecks, whatever. They fed their dogs, they weren’t cruel people. They had odd ideas but they weren’t mean people.

    I think a good question needs to be asked of the sheriff’s department and AC. Where did the dogs come from and how did they find out about them? Rescues don’t have to register with the county only the state. There are no pet-limits. So how did they find out when neighbors etc had no problems with them.

    Could the dogs have come from AC itself? Some seem to believe that.
    Probably not all of them but they had a good relationship with AC at one time.

    Probably not now …

    So then the question is were they set-up and why?

    Our sherrif wants limits and they want everyone with more than ten animals to register with them even if you don’t breed. They wanted to name such entities a Hobby Animal Owner. This designation would give them access to your property anytime they wanted among other things. They tried to ram this down our throat last year but we fought it back.

    Even tho some rules were changed, we’ve never been able to get a re-written version of the law w/the changes. Sunshine exists except in Polk County.

    I beleive it’s because they aren’t done and are going to try it again with this particular case as leverage.

    jmho … and only time will tell I suppose if I am right. Even if I’m wrong, life is going to be hard for multi animal owners and rescuers in Polk County for some time to come.

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