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Dozens of animals taken from home

More than 100 small animals are removed from a Clearwater mobile home. Authorities want to talk to the home’s resident.

Published August 25, 2006

CLEARWATER — More than 100 animals, mostly rodents, were removed from a squalid home at Southern Comfort Mobile Home Park, authorities said Friday.

There were 80 rats, mice and gerbils; 13 dogs; two cats; two rabbits; one gray squirrel; one gecko; and four iguanas inside the home at Lot 1028 of the sprawling mobile home park on U.S. 19, just north of Sunset Point Road, officials said.

There were also some dead rats in the freezer.

Sheriff’s investigators were seeking to speak to the home’s residents, who were not present when the animals were carried out, before considering charges.

Last year, a resident at the mobile home, Cynthia Bhyravabhotla, told the Times that she and her housemate ran a rescue operation for rodents and other animals.

There is no limit on the number of animals that people can keep in unincorporated Pinellas County as long as the animals are kept in heathy conditions, authorities said.

But at least 15 of the animals were neglected, sheriff’s spokesman Mac McMullen said.

“Cages were just lined up against the wall,” said Abigail Appleton, shelter manager at the Humane Society of Pinellas, which assisted in the removal.

She said there were animal feces and urine in the house.

“It was so unclean; it was really disgusting,” she said.

The Humane Society took the smaller animals. Appleton said some rats were put to sleep because they seemed sick or had eye injuries that might have come from fighting one another.

Pinellas County Animal Services officers took the dogs and cats. Dr. Dewayne Taylor said the dogs and cats appeared to be in good condition, though no testing had been done for internal diseases.

“I think the investigation will be done centering on the environment these animals were kept in,” Taylor said. “From what our control officer said, certainly it wasn’t ideal.”

Investigators were considering charges related to confinement and abandonment of animals, but they needed to first interview the owner of the animals, McMullen said.

Park manager Robert Phillips said he went to investigate after tenants told him that dogs had wandered out of the house. He found the front door to the mobile home open and called officials a little after 9 a.m.

“It concerned me because I didn’t know if somebody had gotten in a fight or what had happened,” said Phillips, 38.

“Then the odor just came out. Terrible.”

Phillips said neighbors had complained about bad odors coming from the mobile home before. But management doesn’t have access to the inside of tenants’ homes, so he did not know how many animals were in the house.

Neither did the closest neighbors.

“The max they took out was two or three dogs,” said German Andrade Hernandez, 25. “When we got home from work, they barked, cried, but we never saw anything.”

Taylor said Animal Services officers went to the home twice — in November 2005 and in February 2006 — to investigate complaints. He said the first time, the occupant of the home, Bhyravabhotla, was not home. The officer left a courtesy message.

Taylor could not verify on Friday whether Bhyravabhotla allowed the officer to come inside during the second visit. But she did provide information to the officer on the status of rabies shots for some dogs.

In September, Bhyravabhotla and her housemate, Michelle Lee, told a Times correspondent and photographer who went to the mobile home that they rescued a variety of animals — including rats, mice, cats, rabbits and birds — and cared for them until they could find adoptive homes. They described their rat breeding and adoption operation online at

“I’ve always wanted a farm,” Bhyravabhotla said. “I love animals. They’re a big stress relief. As long as you love them, they’re happy.”

Efforts to reach Bhyravabhotla were unsuccessful Friday.

Appleton said the resident might have started out with a few animals as pets, which reproduced beyond the resident’s capability to take care of them.

“I would hope that if someone is in a situation like that, they would give them to us to prevent this from happening,” she said.

Times correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves and photographer Ted McLaren contributed to this report.

[Last modified August 25, 2006, 21:24:13]

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