261 dogs confiscated from Polk rescue organization
(Another article with photographs -
Animal-abuse case: Polk says couple running nonprofit rescue group abused dogs - OrlandoSentinel.com )
LAKELAND - Dog rescue groups are known as havens of safety, companionship and love for unwanted dogs.
But authorities said a local organization's mission went awry and the dogs were found extremely underweight and with visible ribs, pelvic bones and vertebrae.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office confiscated 261 dogs on Thursday from the home of Diane and husband Charles "Chuck" O'Malley, who ran the Mid-Florida Retriever Rescue out of their house, 15195 Angus Road, Polk City.
They were each charged with 261 counts of animal cruelty and are being held at Polk County Jail with bail set at more than $100,000 for each.
"These animals have been neglected, mistreated and were living in deplorable conditions." said Sheriff Grady Judd.
The sheriff's office received an anonymous tip Wednesday afternoon that the O'Malleys had about 100 dogs that were being neglected.
An employee with the sheriff's Polk County Animal Control went to the home and noticed there wasn't enough food or water for the number of dogs at their property. The officer asked to see the dogs.
The O'Malleys wouldn't allow officials into the home, but they brought dogs out one at a time to be inspected. Around midnight, after showing 117 dogs, they said they wouldn't continue to cooperate, said Carrie Eleazer, a sheriff's office spokeswoman.
Deputies served a search warrant around 2 a.m. Thursday to remove the rest of the dogs. By 7 a.m., the sheriff's office had seized all 261 dogs, which were taken to Polk County Animal Control to be treated and registered.
Of the 261 dogs, 35 are puppies. The dog breeds include Labradors, golden retrievers, Labrador mixes, great Danes, cattle dogs, Sharpei, Dalmations, shepherd mixes, bulldogs and Belgian malinois.
The dogs had a run of the 3,000-square-foot home and 5 –acre property. They were found in closets, bathrooms, bedrooms, porches and the kitchen. The dogs had chewed the stuffing of the couch and mattress, Eleazer said.
The home had a strong smell of urine and feces. Deputies had to wear gas masks while removing dogs. Two deputies were bitten by dogs during the investigation, Eleazer said.
About 100 dogs had been examined by Joe Ertel, the veterinarian with animal control, and he found them to be malnourished and flea-infested. The dogs also had parasites and tartar on their teeth. Several of the dogs had not been neutered or spayed, which is against the policy of rescue organizations, Eleazer said.
"The irony of it is, the O'Malleys state on their Web site that they do home visits to ensure you have adequate living conditions before they'll adopt one of their dogs to you," Judd said.
The Facebook page for Mid-Florida Retriever Rescue said the nonprofit was founded in 2005. The page also states that the organization is dedicated to placing "Labrador retrievers and other working dogs in loving permanent homes."
The organization's website asks that those wishing to adopt be serious and committed. It also asks that potential adopters meet them in a location in Lakeland or Orlando.
Eleazer said the sheriff's office had never received a complaint about the O'Malleys or the organization.
Diane, 52, and Charles, 54, moved to the area several years ago.
Neighbors Jim and Cindy Tergliafera said they have known the O'Malleys for about two years. They considered them wonderful, genuine people who seemed to care for their dogs.
Although they never visited inside the home or in the backyard, they said it was common to see Charles walking a dog day or night. They also saw Diane taking care of the dogs. The dogs all appeared in good condition, according to the couple.
Jim Tergliafera said he would see Charles on a regular basis drive home with a van filled with dog food.
Cindy Tergliafera added that their rural community is an area where people drop off their unwanted dogs and wonders whether the O'Malleys may have been overwhelmed trying to assist the animals they love.
"I can't imagine – having talked to these people – there was any malicious intent of any kind," she said. "These were true dog lovers."
Ertel indicated that all the dogs he has examined should make a full recovery, Eleazer said.
The sheriff's office has acquired temporary custody of all the dogs. It will petition the courts to get full custody of the dogs and then offer them for adoption, Eleazer said.
O M G!!! idiots like this is what give legitmate groups a hard time getting help.
i've never heard of these people; but O M G...were they actually living in that filth, too. bad enough the dogs were!
Well, at least the dogs are now on their way to being placed in good homes. I cannot believe stuff like this. Most rescues that I know of reach a certain point and then don't accept additional dogs because they know they cannot care for them. This couple should be prosectued to the full extent of the law.
wow that is a bunch of dogs for that sized property. their 3550 sq ft house would only have about a 5x3 foot space for each dog, and their 217,800 sq ft lot would only have about 800sq ft for each dog. thats only a 20ftx 40 foot area.
Light, "weedy" individuals are definitely incorrect; equally objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens. Labrador Retrievers shall be shown in working condition well-muscled and without excess fat. Females should weigh between 55 and 70lbs and Males between 65 and 80lbs. Height females 21.5 to 23.5 inches males 22.5 to 24.5 inches at the withers.
HR Greenwoods Sealion Tsunami SH "Wave" born 3-9-2010
Greenwoods Amber Wave VCD2 RA SH AX OF WCX CGC "Amber" born 4-13-2005
WOW. Poor dogs
Sad...I bet they started out wanting to do good, but just didn't know when to stop. poor dogs.
"Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one"