SEBRING - Efforts are underway to find permanent homes for most of the 45 neglected and malnourished dogs and cats removed earlier this month from a Sebring area residence.
Judy Spiegel, president of the board of directors for the Highlands County Humane Society, said by the end of the week all or most of the dogs would be placed in the hands of animal rescue organizations that would find homes for the canines.
Some of the dogs have already been adopted, she said.
But, Spiegel added, adoption efforts for the cats remain a challenge.
Initially, authorities removed 27 cats and 18 dogs from the residence that was filled with feces and fleas. Michelle Brown, 59, the occupant, was charged with 45 counts of animal cruelty. Her arraignment is scheduled for July 15 in Highlands County Circuit Court.
Most of the animals were initially taken to Highlands County Animals Control, but subsequently, the Humane Society took responsibility for the dogs and cats. Some of the dogs have been kept on property owned by Dr. Elton Gissendanner.
Gissendanner said the dogs have been doing good.
Heartland Cat Rescue in Sebring and Trust Again Pet Shelter in Zolfo Springs have taken in some of the cats.
Spiegel said the help from those organizations and Gissendanner has been invaluable because of the Humane Society's limited space. She also said Courtney Lenhart, an assistant state attorney, helped in finding homes for the animals.
Lenhart said she was able to contact a central Florida animal rescue organization she dealt with during a previous incident involving dogs being abused.
Spiegel said that many of the cats aren't ready yet for adoption.
When the animals came in, most of the cats "weren't spayed or neutered and several needed to be treated medically," she said.
Some still need a lot of medical care, as well as to be vaccinated, she said.
"Hopefully, people will step up and adopt them," she said.
The Humane Society needs for people to donate cat food, as well as money to get the felines vaccinated, she said.
Donations of food or money in the form of a check can be taken or mailed to the Humane Society at 7321 Haywood Taylor Road. Donations can be made at www.humanesocietyofhighlandscounty.com