A Florida woman is facing dozens of charges of animal abandonment and animal cruelty this week after allegedly leaving a U-Haul filled with 53 animals in the parking lot of a local grocery store.
Frances Terry Evans, 52, a resident of Pasco County, Fla., was apparently trying to evade county code enforcement officials, who were investigating Evans for hoarding, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Instead of giving her animals up, however, Evans packed the pets into plastic boxes with holes drilled in them, and hid the boxes in a Publix parking lot, hoping to retrieve them after county officials had left.
"(Evans) wanted to do the right thing but couldn't," neighbor Rose Carlisle told the Times. "The animals were her life. She loves them, but she couldn't afford to do what she really needed to do for them."
Evans was foiled when a Pasco County Code Enforcement Official noticed the U-Haul and called in law enforcement, according to a press release from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
When deputies and Animal Services officers arrived at the parking lot, officers heard animals "in obvious distress inside the vehicle," the release states. "The door to the U-Haul was opened and 'numerous' animals inside plastic containers (similar to Tupperware containers) were located inside. The temperature inside the back of the truck was extremely hot."
While veterinarians rushed to try to save the animals, for the majority it was too late. ABC Action News reports that 39 cats had to be euthanized.
"I've been involved with numerous hoarding situations during my veterinary career and this was very similar to other cases I've seen," Dr. Lisa Centonze, chief veterinarian for Hernando Animal Services, told Action News. She is still in the process of evaluating the three dogs. In the meantime, all 11 remaining cats are up for adoption.
After being cited for 53 counts of animal abandonment and 53 counts of animal cruelty, Evans was arrested Wednesday, according to Tampa Bay station WTSP.