BROOKSVILLE — The owners of a defunct nonprofit animal rescue shelter pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts each of animal cruelty.
Carol Mas and her husband, Estebahn Agustinho, appeared before Hernando County Judge Don Scaglione, who agreed to their request to consolidate the misdemeanor charges into one trial, according to Assistant State Attorney Richard Lehman.
The couple were charged based on evidence and photos submitted by Hernando County Animal Services after a monthlong investigation into Our Animal Haus, a shelter Mas and Agustinho operated on their 12-acre ranch outside Brooksville.
In mid October, animal control officers visited the property on Lanark Road and discovered an elderly chestnut mare named Ginger weakened by malnutrition.
County Judge Kurt Hitzemann in late October ordered the removal of more than 200 animals after officers uncovered incidences of chronic malnutrition in nearly the entire animal population. In addition, many animals were found with untreated wounds and life-threatening diseases, and there were numerous cleanliness issues in areas where animals were housed.
Mas has repeatedly railed against Hernando County Animal Services on her Facebook page and other Web sites, saying her actions were unfairly misinterpreted by authorities.
If convicted, Mas and Agustinho could each face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The couple's next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 4.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.