ARCADIA — The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office removed 58 dogs from Strawberry Farms in Arcadia on Tuesday, rescuing them from alleged deplorable conditions.

DCSO reported the search and removal on its social media page Tuesday afternoon, along with several photos of the conditions the animals were kept in.

The investigation started Oct. 28, when DeSoto County deputies received a call from a concerned customer.

The customer, a Washington state resident, had originally purchased a female Siberian husky puppy from a breeder in Mississippi. The breeder contracted Rose Romano, the owner-operator of Strawberry Farms, to pick up the puppy and send it on to Washington state.

Instead, according to the DCSO arrest report, Romano kept the dog in her care and began “making excuses for not wanting to transport the dog.” Romano even offered to arrange the purchase of the dog for herself before being compelled to send it along.

When the husky arrived in Washington state, the customer noted that the dog seemed malnourished. The dog had originally been weighed in Mississippi at 13.5 pounds; by the time the puppy reached Washington state, it weighed 8.5 pounds.

The arrest report detailed further investigation by deputies, including a letter from a local veterinarian to DeSoto County Animal Control about two female dogs brought in for treatment. The vet wrote that one of Romano’s dogs “had wounds her face ... no palpable fat” with ribs and other bones “easily visible.”

DCSO sought a warrant for Strawberry Farms and visited the location. Deputies made contact with a man at the property, Robert Polk, who claimed to be Romano’s partner. Polk told the deputies that Romano was out of town at the time they arrived with the warrant.

When they entered the property, deputies reported conditions that immediately struck them as unsanitary.

“Immediately upon entering the house, the smell of ammonia from dog urine was overwhelming,” wrote DeSoto County Detective Sgt. Jennifer Bailey in the arrest report. “The floors of the home were coated in fresh and dried urine and feces.”

Three dogs were found roaming free inside the house, according to authorities, while other dogs were found in crowded kennels inside the nearby garage.

In total, 39 adult dogs and 19 juvenile puppies were seized from the property, all huskies. Another 26 animals were also removed from the property, including 18 mice, four cats, a turtle, a snake and a bearded dragon lizard.

“We have to do better than this,” Sheriff James Potter said. “These animals don’t deserve to live like this.”

Robert Polk was arrested at the scene, and has been charged with 82 counts of neglect.

Romano was apprehended in Salem, Virginia sometime Tuesday night, according to DCSO Public Information Officer Jessica Tkac.

She will be charged with the same 82 counts of animal neglect, as well as two counts of forging medical documents, in connection to an incident where customers were provided with false certifications of health for their animals.


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