SEMINOLE COUNTY, Florida -- Police arrested Tonya Grose, 36, after they discovered several malnourished dogs, along with animal remains, at her home in Altamonte Springs on Wednesday.
Grose appeared before a judge for the first time on Thursday and now faces five felony animal cruelty charges.
Also on Thursday, Animal Service officers were seen bringing out more animals from her house on Ballard Street. According to the county, she handed over at least 26 dogs, 13 cats and two birds.
"It's heartbreaking," said neighbor Crystal Jeffrey.
Neighbors said they have smelled the stench emanating from the house for a long time.
"It literally just blows in and nobody can handle the smells," Jeffrey said.
State business records show Grose registered a pet rescue called "Skys the Limit Pet Rescue" out of her home starting in May.
"Clearly not doing what a rescue should do," said Alan Harris.
Harris is Seminole County's emergency manager. He is also a spokesperson for Animal Services. He said they worked alongside Altamonte Springs police for the investigation.
Altamonte Springs police said they found "multiple emaciated dogs in cages without food or water, and birds in cages filled with feces and cockroaches."
"It was raining last night when we were taking the dogs out and they were drinking from the roadway. So no water at all. Clearly no water for an extended period of time," Harris said.
Officers also said they found two sheds in the backyard that did not have ventilation. They said they found dogs locked inside and a dog's skeleton on the ground. They also found 15 trash bags filled with dead dogs and kittens.
"One of the individuals that was an officer said they don't need to go to Halloween Horror Nights anymore because that's how bad it was inside," Harris said.
In her arrest report, police said Grose told them the dog skeleton was a German Shepherd that she got from a shelter in bad health, and a week later, it died.
About the animals found in the bags, officers said she told them that "she usually buries the animals that die in the backyard, but she could not bury them by herself, so she put them in garbage bags in the shed."
The report also said she "admitted to not having money or food to properly care for the animals."
According to the county, one dog died while they were on the scene and another died in transit to the shelter.
Meanwhile, dozens of other animals like Belle, Love and Red are now at the county's shelter in Sanford getting treatment.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure every single animal we received yesterday stays well," Harris said. "These are going to be incredible dogs. And they're all different types of dogs too there. There's Beagles and Frenchies and all kinds of other dogs."
The shelter was already over capacity before this incident. Now, they are in desperate need of people to adopt.
"Please consider us because we really, really need your help because we've got to make space for these animals," Harris said.
The animals that Grose handed over to the county are not yet ready to be adopted. Some need weeks to get healthy. But Harris said if people are able to adopt the other animals they already had available for adoption, that would be a huge help.
According to the county, Grose was already on Animal Services' radar. They gave her her first verbal warning in 2017 after getting a call and doing a welfare check. The county said she made improvements.
But then, in August 2022, Animal Services got another call about possible abandonment because of the odor and noise.
"We did see some pretty deplorable conditions," Harris said.
County code gave her 30 days to make things better, which Harris said she did.
"She cleaned it up," Harris said.
But then, Altamonte Springs police said Grose started canceling recent check-ups. So, on Wednesday, Animal Services visited her house with police officers.
"So everything was clean, everything was good. She was back to normal. And then now we're another month later and it was even worse," Harris said.
Harris said there are still animals at Grose's house. But the judge ordered that if she posts her $10,000 bond, she can not go back there and she can not have animals.
The county and police said they do not know where Grose got the animals from. The investigation is ongoing.
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