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Hernando County Animal Services says dogs rescued from Our Animal Haus okay for adoption

BROOKSVILLE — Tails wagging and ears perked up Wednesday, the four dachshund-mix dogs eagerly awaited the arrival of Hernando County Animal Services supervisor Patrick Pace, who checks in on them daily.

Friday, the fates of dozens of animals — including 32 dogs — seized by court order from the Our Animal Haus shelter was unknown. Since then, animal control workers have evaluated the rescued animals hoping to have them adopted into good homes.

Pace said Wednesday that all but four of the dogs taken from the home of Carol Mas and her husband, Estebahn Agustinho, have been deemed fit enough to be put up for adoption.

From 10 a.m. to noon today and Friday the public is invited to look over the dogs at the Animal Services facility at 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville.

The animals will be available for adoption Monday for the regular $65 fee, which includes rabies vaccination, county license, and spay or neuter services.

"There are some very nice dogs here in need of a good home," Pace said. "It would be a happy ending to a very grim story."

The dogs are part of the more than 200 animals ordered seized from the shelter last week by County Judge Kurt Hitzemann after he declared Mas and Agustinho unfit to care for them.

A monthlong investigation of the shelter by animal control officers noted instances of severe animal neglect, including malnourished animals, filthy cages and diseased and injured animals that were not being treated by a veterinarian.

A day after Hitzemann ordered the removal of the animals, animal control officers and volunteers from the Hernando Emergency Animal Response Team went to the 12-acre ranch on Lanark Road with trucks and trailers to cart off nearly 100 cats, 32 dogs, 50 birds, four horses and a donkey, plus an assortment of domestic and exotic pets.

The rescuers were greeted by the stench of urine and feces inside the residence. Swarms of roaches scattered from beneath cages as they were lifted. Of the animals removed from the property, Pace said, the cats appeared to be in the worst shape.

Pace described the situation at the property as chaotic, with many of the cats suffering from advanced-stage communicable diseases. There was evidence that some cats had survived only by eating their own feces.

"It was worse than we ever imagined," Pace said. Due to their deteriorating health, almost all of the cats had to be euthanized, he said.

Pace said that with proper food, medical attention and sanitary living conditions, the dogs, birds, livestock and other exotic animals removed from Our Animal Haus have responded well.

To recoup some of the expenses the county has incurred during the case, the livestock will be auctioned off at a later date.

The birds are due to be sold in an online auction later this month. The collection of exotic pets, which includes sugar gliders, ferrets, prairie dog, rabbits, and gerbils, will go to a non-profit rescue that will try to find homes for them.

Pace said that the dogs not adopted during the public viewing will be showcased at the Humane Society's annual "Furfest" on Nov. 14 at Tom Varn Park.

Although Mas and her husband were allowed to keep a handful of personal pets, under Hitzemann's ruling, the couple is forbidden from acquiring any more animals for three years.

Times staff writer Will Vragovic contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

Hernando County Animal Services says dogs rescued from Our Animal Haus okay for adoption 11/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 2:51pm]
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