LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Fla. (WSVN) – Authorities made a disturbing discovery in Lighthouse Point, Friday, where a woman allegedly hoarded dozens of animals.
Lighthouse Point Police and Fire Rescue found 70 cats and dogs, some dead, in their own waste, which had accumulated to toxic levels over several years inside of 69-year-old Linda Giaccio’s home.
According to authorities, police were called to the home after a dog escaped from the home and attacked a neighborhood dog. After this, Lighthouse Point Police were able to retrieve a search warrant, allowing them access into the home, Friday morning.
Once they arrived to the home, the fumes were too much to bear.
Giaccio was not at home when authorities first arrived, but she was located and arrested later Friday night. The next day, she appeared in bond court, and she was charged with five counts of animal neglect.
Authorities said fire rescue crews had to enter the home wearing hazmat suits and special breathing equipment with tanks since the fumes were so toxic and pungent. They said they could not breathe or open their eyes once they stepped inside.
Once inside, they found the unimaginable. Authorities had to extract dead animals among the living animals.
According to investigators, the dozens of cats and dogs had not been outside for years, so the living conditions they were found in were deplorable.
Lighthouse Point Police Chief Ross Lucata said this is the worst case of animal hoarding and cruelty he had ever seen in his years on the force.
“We’ve all been in this business for a long time,” Lucata said. “I’ve been almost 40 years, and I’ve never been in a house with such horrible conditions as I’ve witnessed in here.”
Lucata said that they were still unable to access some of the rooms in the house. “It appears that the homeowner partitioned off areas within the house. There are a number of rooms that we have not been able to access. It looks like there were little openings in the bottoms where someone may have been been passing food and water through,” Lucata said. “There is feces an inch to two thick throughout the entire house. There are cages with animals, animals running loose, dead animals in the house. They’re climbing in the walls, they’re in the attic. It’s a very serious condition.”
A neighbor said for the past 16 years, he had smelled the stench coming from inside of the home, but there was nothing he could do.
“They’re all encased in that house. They don’t go out. That’s why the stench is so bad,” Fred, a neighbor, said. “For the street, for the community, it should have been done quite a while ago.”
Another neighbor said they had entered the home from the backyard in order to try to help Giaccio, but the years of damage was simply irreversible.
Nearby residents said Giaccio had owned the home for many years. However, whether or not she had recently been living inside of the home is unclear. These neighbors said there was no way she could have been living inside since the piles of toxic waste made the home uninhabitable.
“Usually, we just see her sleeping beneath that window. Sickening to be honest, but it’s not surprising,” another neighbor said.
Jane Croley, a neighbor, said she’s always seen cats laying in the front window.
“I can’t believe it. I mean I’ve always seen cats laying up there on the window,” Croley said.
“It’s unfortunate that it took this long and animals had to die because of this,” Stephanie Page, a neighbor, said. “You know, I think this needed to happen a long time ago.”
Lighthouse Point authorities, along with the help of Broward County Animal Control and Palm Beach County Animal Control, have pulled out about two dozen or so animals from inside of the home. However, they still have a lot of work to do.
Police found four dead cats. They said there are still animals inside some of the walls, AC ducts, as well as the attic. Therefore, authorities have left traps inside in hopes of safely capturing these remaining animals.
Officials said it is going to take several days until all of the animals, dead and alive, are successfully removed from the rotting home.
Giaccio remains behind bars on $25,000 bond.
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