SPRING HILL — Julie Rosenberger had been working as the veterinarian for Hernando County Animal Services for only a month when the Sheriff's Office called Tuesday, saying it would be bringing in some dogs.
Rosenberger didn't realize it would be more than 20 dogs, just a portion of the 50 animals found in a Spring Hill woman's home earlier that day.
After receiving a barking complaint from a neighbor, deputies responded to 12287 Landfair St., where they discovered Naoma Britten living with 47 dogs and three cats in deplorable conditions, according to a news release.
Inside the house, metal crates were stacked on top of one another, filled with up to 2 inches of packed feces and tattered newspapers, according to the release. In Britten's bedroom, seven dogs ran loose, and the bed was surrounded by baby gates. It smelled of urine everywhere.
The dogs taken to Animal Services were in need of immediate care, Rosenberger said. As for the dogs remaining in the house, Britten has until June 25 to find them new homes.
At Animal Services on Wednesday, the dogs sat scattered in cages. Two chihuahuas named Indiana and Ruby huddled together in one stall, missing large patches of fur from their legs.
In another cage, an unnamed male poodle rested his chin on the floor with bloody sores and fur matted over his eyes, making him functionally blind. Rosenberger considered him to be in the worst condition.
Britten signed off to have the poodle euthanized, but Rosenberger said she plans to perform surgery and hopefully nurse him back to health.
"Someone made this dog that way," she said. "We're not going to fault the dog for it."
The exact conditions of the animals will not be known until Rosenberger does complete health checks, which will take a few days, she said. Some looked healthier than others, like Bear, which had all of his fur and filled out his medium-sized frame.
If Britten can't find homes for the remaining dogs, Animal Services will pick them up. The Sheriff's Office will decide whether to issue citations once health assessments are complete.
At Britten's home Wednesday afternoon, a woman came outside and told Times reporters to leave. A fence wrapped around the front door and continued into the back yard, and an Animal Services truck was parked in the yard. Dogs could be heard barking inside.
Britten has had an active nonprofit registered with the state since 2010 called the Cuddly Pooch Rescue Inc., according to Florida records. The rescue has no affiliation with Animal Services, Rosenberger said.
It was unknown which animals would be immediately adoptable, Rosenberger said. Some may have contagious skin conditions or other underlying issues that need treatment. But she hopes they'll all soon be adopted out to loving families.
"I always see myself as being their advocate or their voice," she said. "I'm generally happy they ended up here."
In a stall nearby, Bear poked his nose through the fence and wagged his tail.