FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A woman accused of hoarding dozens of cats inside of a Sunrise apartment has been arrested on a theft charge that, investigators said, is related to her work as an animal rescuer.
Michelline Toulouse stands accused of stealing from a rescue where she spent days and nights caring for homeless cats.
“It’s hard to believe it’s the same person,” Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation spokesperson Gina Vlasek said. “I can’t comprehend it. I’ve, like I said, haven’t been able to sleep. It’s been very, very difficult and very stressful.”
Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation said security video from their office showed Toulouse stealing nearly $300 from a cash drawer. Toulouse also faces a charge of criminal mischief.
A man who was also seen on the security footage has been identified as Jerome Junior Vaughn, Toulouse’s boyfriend. Vaughn was also arrested, and he faces charges that include petty theft.
Animal rescuers, however, said Toulouse’s arrest pales in comparison to what they found at her Sunrise apartment last week.
Dozens of cats — dead and alive — were left abandoned in the apartment for days, perhaps weeks.
Saving Sage staffers were given permission to rescue the animals after Sunrise Police deemed the apartment to be abandoned.
“It was just the most horrific thing that you could ever imagine,” Vlasek said. “No food, there was urine in the water bowls and at least one of the cats died within the last 12 hours and was eaten halfway down.”
While the investigation into the alleged animal abuse continues, Toulouse’s former colleagues said they struggle to understand what they found at that apartment. Toulouse has not been charged in that incident.
7News spoke to Toulouse about a rescued kitten in December 2020.
“She was just so loving and caring, and she would go out of her way to help people and animals,” Vlasek said. “This is the last thing you’d ever think of.”
Toulouse took to Facebook where she said she wanted to help the animals but got overwhelmed.
She appeared before a judge on Wednesday regarding her petty theft charge where she was granted no bond.
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