EAST LAKE — Authorities removed more than 120 small-breed dogs from what Pinellas sheriff's officials described as deplorable conditions at a home in the county's north end Monday afternoon.
Sheriff's deputies, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and representatives from the nonprofit Suncoast Animal League visited the property at 339 Ranch Road, south of Keystone Road and east of East Lake Road.
"It's a very nice home, but it reeked with a smell; and when you went back into a couple of the rooms, it knocked you out," said Rick Chaboudy of the Suncoast Animal League. "No animal should be forced to live like that, and it's not healthy for this person to go back in there. It's pretty nasty."
Deputies will conduct an animal neglect investigation and the matter will be referred to the State Attorney's Office to determine if criminal charges will be filed against Teresita Hughes, 69, the owner of the home and a dog breeder.
Most of the dogs taken were Pomeranians, but there were also some Yorkshire terriers and Maltese. Some of the dogs had broken legs, while others were undernourished and had sores from living in wire cages.
The injured dogs were taken to emergency animal clinics. The others will be given to local shelters, sheriff's officials said.
According to deputies, there were two to eight dogs packed into each wire cage.
Deputies say most of the animals were living in their own feces and urine. In addition, the food in the crates contained feces, and the dogs had no opportunity for exercise.
Hughes allowed the deputies into her home Monday and told them she had 67 animals.
"Hughes said she has been a breeder for 15 years and has had no problems," Chaboudy said.
"We deal with hoarders a lot, but this is the first time I've dealt with the huge number of animals from a puppy mill situation."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.