Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Neglected horses, squirrels, dogs, cats: Brooksville pair arrested on 10 animal cruelty charges

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Sheriff's Office has arrested a Brooksville duo on 10 counts of animal cruelty charges after deputies found malnourished horses, flea-infested dogs, birds and caged squirrels living in squalor under their care.

All the animals were in various stages of neglect, investigators said.

Deputies first got a call on Aug. 25 that there may be endangered animals at 5253 Oney Drive, home to Dennis Rogers, 51, and Deborah Meinhardt, 50. Rogers told the responding deputies that the animals belonged to Meinhardt but said he was their caretaker.

Rogers walked the deputies through the property, where investigators found seven horses who had algae- and tadpole-infested water in their troughs. There was no feed, hay or grass available for them to eat, deputies said. Some of the horses had untreated worms, wounds and overgrown or broken hooves. They had lost much of their muscle. In one photo provided by the Sheriff's Office, a horse's rib cage stuck out under its taut skin.

Deputies said all the dogs they saw were dirty and covered in fleas, many with obvious health issues. The macaw, gold and blue, was in a cage on the front porch living in its own feces and without any water. Nearby, two gray squirrels were kept in a small cage.

Debris filled the inside of the home, too, deputies said. There were more dogs and feces throughout it. It smelled like ammonia and burned the deputies' eyes. Indoors, they also found two cats and three sun conure parakeets in a cage, all neglected.

Deputies called animal control and the animals were taken to Hernando County Animal Services.

On Tuesday, investigators got an official report from a veterinarian that said all seven horses were suffering from severe neglect.

Deputies returned to the property Thursday and arrested the pair. They were both freed from the Hernando County jail Friday after each posted $10,000 bail.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

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