Authorities arrested a Hialeah couple Thursday after they rescued more than 70 dogs, at least five cats, 18 birds, a rabbit, prairie dog, and Australian flying squirrel from their townhouse. Ileana Arnais, 50, and Rubin Dario Arrojo, 50, were charged with 34 felony counts of animal cruelty, but more charges were expected. Carl Zogby of Hialeah Police said the couple did not understand they were committing a crime.
Authorities arrested a Hialeah couple Thursday after they rescued more than 70 dogs, at least five cats, 18 birds, a rabbit, prairie dog, and Australian flying squirrel from their townhouse.
Ileana Arnais, 50, and Rubin Dario Arrojo, 50, were charged with 34 felony counts of animal cruelty, but more charges were expected. The arrests were the result of "Operation Fido," a three-month long investigation that began after a visit from the city's code compliance officers.
Authorities said there was feces and urine all over the 1,100-square-foot home, and even on the beds where the people slept. Police are seeking help for the couple's 26-year-old son who lives in the home but was not arrested.
"They weren't in agreement that there was a crime," said Carl Zogby of Hialeah Police. "They said, 'What did we do wrong?' They lived under these conditions as normal."
Hialeah Police said the severely neglected animals were found after a dog groomer that visited the home alerted authorities to the animal hoarding situation.
“These animals were suffering in some ghastly circumstances, lacking food, water, medical attention, living in unsanitary conditions and confined to small spaces,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
According to the search warrant, the groomer, Ana Vivas, detected a foul odor when she arrived at the house and noticed what appeared to be feces on the front door.
She told police some of the dogs smelled like feces and urine and were infested with fleas. One of the dogs had an injury to his ear and had nails so long they were curling, the search warrant said. All the dogs Vivas saw had irritated skin, the report said.
"No human being should be in there, and these dogs don't deserve any life like that," said Stacy Narcisse of Get a Life Pet Rescue.
She also told NBC 6 the dogs were surviving by eating their own feces and drinking their own urine.
The animals were found inside a townhome at 5354 W. 26th Ave.
Neighbor Kenneth Cepada said he knew something was off.
"We could smell it from where I lived, I lived right behind," he said. "We called plenty of times, but finally somebody did something about it."
It was not immediately known who was representing the Hialeah couple.
If possible, the animals will be nursed back to health and adopted. The city will force a cleanup of the property.