Police Bust Deadly Animal Den

Fort Pierce woman charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty

A woman running a ghastly makeshift animal shelter in her Fort Pierce home was busted yesterday, charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty.

Michele Nunziata is in jail after police, responding to a report of a foul odor, found three dead dogs and a host of other animals malnourished and living in deplorable conditions in her house.

Nunziata, 40, told police she had euthanized the three dogs -- a bull dog, a rottweiler and a mixed-breed -- with the help of her landlord, who she claims provided the syringe, according to the arrest affidavit.

She and the landlord even had a code for when he had placed the syringe in her mailbox: "The snowman has arrived."

Among the animals found, aside from the three dead dogs, were another five dogs, two cockatiels, two ferrets, two rabbits one goose, one chinchilla and a black wolf.

All were malnourished, and the wolf was found lying in feces. Animal Control of St. Lucie County took in all of the animals.

Police were unable to find a syringe, and Nunziata repeatedly changed her story, according to the arrest affidavit. Police said it appeared that she hadn't been in the house for days.

Nunziata was hit with six felony counts and 10 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. More charges may be filed, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.

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