'Strong ammonia smell' in Fuquay-Varina home where 26 animals were found

Michael Perchick Image
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County officials are investigating a 50-year-old woman after more than 20 animals were removed from a Fuquay-Varina home Monday.

Authorities with the assistance of Wake County Animal Services seized 26 animals over a course of several hours. The investigation shut down a stretch of Lake Glen Drive through much of the afternoon before it re-opened for traffic around 6:30 in the evening.

Fourteen dogs, eight cats, two ferrets and two rabbits were found in the residence. One dog appeared to be injured, the Town of Fuquay-Varina said in a statement.

According to city officials, officers had to leave the home due to the extremely strong odor of animal waste and urine from inside the residence.

The town said the suspect is a 50-year-old female tenant who had refused to leave the 1460 Lake Glen Drive residence after an eviction notice.

It is also believed that the tenant's elderly parents, ages 87 and 81, were possibly inside the house. They were later located by officers at an appointment while the animal cruelty investigation was occurring.

An investigation into potential elderly neglect/exploitation is ongoing.

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"Crazy, because this is an upscale neighborhood. And you would never believe in a house like that would hold 22 animals," said Brandon Mecca, who lives nearby.

Crews could be seen making their way in and out of the house, leading animals out one by one. Some of the animals were taken out in cages. The 26 animals involved included dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets.

"It's not really as much about how many animals you have, but how well you maintain the animals," said Dr. Jennifer Federico, the Director of Wake County Animal Services.

She explained the agency has no rule about the number of animals somebody can own, though respective cities or HOA's could have their own policies.

The investigation is being led by Fuquay-Varina Police, who also received help from the Raleigh Fire Department's HAZMAT team. Dr. Federico said the presence of the HAZMAT team is standard protocol to make sure the home is safe to enter and to determine how long a person should stay in the home.

While animals are still being evaluated, Dr. Federico said none appeared to need emergency medical care on scene.

"They're not in critical condition as far as dying or being euthanized. Most of it is neglect. You know we're looking at skin issues, things like that," said Dr. Federico.

Off-camera, neighbors told ABC11 the homeowner was recently evicted.

Nil Basu said when she was last inside the house a couple years ago, there were two dogs and two cats.

"There was a strong ammonia smell in there," Basu said.

Dr. Federico explained the intake process of the animals will begin Monday night, with veterinarians and shelter staff set to spend the next one to two days evaluating the animals' conditions.

Based on other animal-cruelty investigations, Dr. Federico is hopeful the animals will respond positively.

"No matter how badly people have treated them, they're still loving of us. So they give us hope to do better, and that's why we keep coming out here," said Dr. Federico.

The animals' conditions will play a role in possible charges.

Wake County Animal Services is working to examine all of the animals and will work with the town to obtain potential criminal charges on the suspect.

Shelter staffers are in the process of determining the ages of the animals.

It is not known how the homeowner acquired all the animals. At this time, the animals are not available for adoption.