Animal Hoarder Busted
Repeat-hoarding offender found living in filthy, cat-filled house.
Animal Services seized dozens of cats from a Marion County, Florida home on Thursday.
Investigators said Nelly Vega, 56, had 35 cats inside her 700-square foot apartment in Silver Springs Shores.
Animal Services investigators described the condition where the 2-week-old kittens and cats have been living was heartbreaking.
"It was crazy. I couldn't believe how many cats were in there," said neighbor Justin Bass.
Officers said they discovered urine and feces-matted carpet, tiny cages and boxes without litter.
The odor of ammonia was so strong, neighbors could smell it from the street.
"It was pretty bad," Bass said.
The conditions caused breathing problems and more eye infections than the veterinarian has ever seen.
"If animal control officers had to wear ventilators to enter, that's not something the cats should be living in," said Elaine DeIorio, from Marion County Animal Services.
Authorities said it was not the first time Vega had been in trouble for animal cruelty.
In 2006, investigators seized four cats, two ferrets, three turtles and had to put down 13 out of 14 of Vega's dogs.
She was charged with 23 misdemeanors, was put on a probation for a year and wasn't allowed to have animals during that time.
Vega's daughter, Idavia, and her 5-year-old son had also been living in the home.
The Department of Children and Families took custody of the child but the mother and son were reunited a year later.
Animal Services says it was a Code Enforcement case then, and Vega may have gotten lost when her file changed hands.
"The animal owners move, relocate, it's hard to keep track of addresses," said DeIorio.
Delorio said they are trying to get custody of the cats, which will likely be up for adoption, while investigators are working to build their case against Vega.