OLEAN, N.Y. (WKBW) — It started with a fire and a phone call from a concerned neighbor.
"This wasn't even a hoarder situation where you had a path. A lot of times with a hoarder you have a path to get through. There wasn't even a path. We were climbing on things," Heather Price, an investigator for the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office said.
When the fire department, sheriff's office and Cattaraugus County SPCA entered this home on Main Street in Olean, they said they found more than 30 animals living in deplorable conditions.
"The house was actually one of the worst end ones I've ever seen. There were dead animals in the house that I believe died before the fire. That's evidence enough to show the animals were not living in healthy conditions," Price said.
According to the sheriff's office, two ferrets, five snakes, two bearded dragons, several cats, a chameleon, a lizard, numerous pet rats, a chinchilla, a degu, around seven rabbits, some of which are pregnant, two dogs and eight puppies were all removed from the home.
"Some of the animals are now blind due to them having improper light. Mama is in a pretty severe condition right now. She has worms. She has 8 week old puppies but she's so emaciated she isn't really holding on weight," Jason Berube, the manager of the Cattaraugus County SPCA, said.
"It was definitely an animal hoarder situation. You could tell that in their minds they were helping these animals. They just had no sense of what the responsibility really is," Price said.
Three individuals were arrested, charged with failure to provide sustenance, proper food and water and neglect. If found guilty, they will be added to a county registry and will never again be able to own an animal in Cattaraugus County.
"We are actually able to give them a criminal summons to appear in court and pay fines if they are found in possession of animals again," Price said.
And once the animals become healthy enough...
"We will find homes for them. Most of them we already have homes for, we're just waiting for the logistics to make sure we don't step on anyone legally," Berube said.