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Distressed animals removed from nonprofit rescue shelter in Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County animal control officers removed a dozen distressed animals Monday from a Brooksville home that for the three years has served as a nonprofit animal rescue shelter.

Animal Services supervisor Patrick Pace said officers responding to a complaint of unsanitary conditions at 172 Lark Ave. arrived to find the decaying carcasses of two guinea pigs, a ferret and a chinchilla inside the residence.

Pace said the owners of the animals, Douglas Holt, 46, and Lorri Schiller, 39, agreed to give Animal Services custody of the rest of their animals, including nine dogs, two chinchillas and a squirrel.

The state Department of Corporations Web site lists Holt and Schiller as registered agents for the nonprofit corporation Disaster Animal Rescue/Response Team of Florida and Hoofs, Paws and Claws, Inc. Attempts to reach Holt and Schiller Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Pace, who was among three responding officers, described the scene inside the home as "pretty bad." In addition to the dead animals, the home was littered with feces and garbage, and had an odor so strong that officers had to use ventilator suits, masks and gloves.

According to Pace, Schiller informed him that the couple had been having financial troubles and personal issues and were no longer able to properly care for the animals. The case remains open and no charges have been filed.

The incident marked the third time in recent months that Animal Control has seized animals from troubled rescue shelters.

In October, animal service officers uncovered numerous incidences of chronic malnutrition, untreated wounds and diseases and cleanliness at the home of Carol Mas and her husband, Estebahn Agustinho.

County Judge Kurt Hitzemann later declared them unfit to operate their nonprofit Our Animal Haus shelter. Several of the animals, including a horse and nearly 100 cats had to be euthanized.

In November, six malnourished horses were removed from a residence in western Hernando County that billed itself as a horse rescue and adoption facility.

Two other horses on the property were found to be too weak to survive, and had to be euthanized.

Jillian Medina and Jerry Conley, owners of the Living Ranch facility, were later charged with eight counts each of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

Distressed animals removed from nonprofit rescue shelter in Hernando County 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:00pm]

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