The operator of a South Florida pet rescue center is facing animal cruelty charges following complaints that she kept hundreds of animals in what prosecutors described as a "squalid warehouse."
Authorities say hundreds of animals were subjected to "deplorable conditions" after Gisela Tacao took them in at Gigi's Rescue in Hialeah, a site an arrest warrant describes as"a fairly small, poorly ventilated warehouse."
Dozens of animals were removed from the operation in 2012 -- less than two years after it was opened -- following complaints about the presence and stench of feces and urine and the conditions of animals kept on the premises, the state attorney's office said in a press release. An arrest warrant states that "at the very least, every dog removed appeared filthy, smelly and dehydrated. Some also "had obvious sores and injuries," it said.
Now, Tacao is facing 53 counts of animal cruelty after a joint investigation by the Hialeah Police Department and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. It was not immediately clear if she has an attoreny.
The 40-year-old was licensed to start the rescue, located at 269 West 24th Street, in 2011 and began taking in pets from Miami-Dade Animal Services, according to an arrest warrant.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle called the case "a perfect example of the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
"These animals were living in the worst of circumstances, sadly waiting to be rescued from their supposed rescuer," she said in a statement. "Such neglect is not a mistake, it is a crime."
Some of the pets were taken to the Humane Society of Broward County where they are being treated and placed in foster homes.
"Checking them from head to toe giving them their shots checking their heart their eyes their ears just to make sure theyre in general good health," said Caroline Crane, an employee at the Humane Soceity of Broward County.
Tacao was charged with 53 felony counts of animal cruelty, based on the number of animals examined. The total bond was set at 265,000.