SEBRING — When Mary Sult of Animal Resource Center in Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania, heard of an animal neglect case in Florida, she knew who it was.
Sult knew Jinece Loughry, who had been involved in an animal hoarding case seven years ago, had moved to Florida years ago. Sult hadn’t heard about her since, until she got a phone message from the Highlands News-Sun on Tuesday.
“As soon as I heard I had a message from Florida, I knew exactly who it was (about),” Sult said.
Loughry is in Highlands County Jail in lieu of $72,000 bail — $1,000 each for every animal cruelty charge. She had a startlingly similar case from May 2012 in Berwick, Pennsylvania.
At the time, Sult said, Loughry was the local “Dog Warden,” the animal control officer for the township.
That was until Loughry had to go away for training, Sult said, and hired a pet sitter to look after her animals.
Evy Lysk, the sitter, found 33 dogs and 14 cats living in filth, and called police, according to the local newspaper, Press Enterprise.
Loughry disagreed with the numbers, claiming 26 dogs and 13 cats, and said the pet sitter allowed conditions to deteriorate while she was away at training.
She resigned her town post and said she planned to become a Pennsylvania humane officer, the Press Enterprise reported.
Sult describes a humane officer as being concerned with animal welfare, where the animal control officer sees to human safety.
The Press Enterprise also stated Loughry said she would move out of Berwick.
Tale of two advocates
The minute Lysk walked into the house, the Press Enterprise reported, she knew Loughry was overloaded.
“I knew I was betraying her,” Lysk told the Press Enterprise. At the time, Lysk ran her own haven for cats outside Benton, Pennsylvania. “She had trusted me to be in her house. But I had to do the right thing. That was the worst thing I ever saw.”
Reports of the 2012 incident sound similar to the one from last Thursday, where Highlands County sheriff’s deputies removed 49 live animals and 23 dead ones from a 1,002-square-foot home in Avon Park, especially the smell.
“The smell is a smell I’ll never forget,” Lysk was quoted as saying in 2012. “There was poop, poop everywhere. She let dogs poop and pee everywhere. And there were 14 cats in the cellar, with no litter box.”
Another room in the cellar held a sick 100-pound dog, the Press Enterprise reported Lysk as saying, and a small dog in the house was sick and blind.
Sult and Press Enterprise reports suggested Loughry took the animals home because she lacked resources, from meager pay or inadequate local facilities, to house them elsewhere.
“It’s not hard to get overwhelmed,” Sult said of people trying to care for multiple animals. “You get overwhelmed very easily. Once you get in that hole, it’s hard to get out of it.”
Trying to help
According to Press Enterprise reports, Loughry asked Lysk to clean up some of the mess while she was away, and gave Lysk some pills for the sick dog, with plans to have the dog euthanized on her return.
Lysk said she tried to clean.
“But all you could do was wipe poop on poop,” Lysk said in news reports. “I didn’t even know where to start. Every time I’d clean up the poop, they’d poop again. I couldn’t keep up with it.”
She also said she couldn’t breathe, a statement mirrored by Highlands County Animal Services officers and Crime Scene Unit deputies when they processed the scene last week in Avon Park.
Lysk told the Press Enterprise she dreaded every day she went back, “but I gave my word. And I couldn’t bear to leave the animals unattended.”
On the second day, when the sick dog in the basement couldn’t walk, Lysk and her husband took it to their home, where it died, news reports said.
Lysk said the house also had:
• Two Dobermans that wouldn’t let smaller dogs eat, often stepping on them
• A bird cage with cockatiels, including one dead bird, which hadn’t been cleaned in months
Sult said the Animal Resource Center took almost all the animals once they were removed. One almost died.
Slip through cracks
Loughry didn’t really face charges in Pennsylvania, Sult said. Now that such incidents bring felony charges, Sult said there should be a national database for animal abuse, to prevent future incidents.
It could work through GoogleDrive, she said, which is an easily shareable platform.
“It’s sad that’s not linked,” Sult said.
She also lays blame on the pet adoption organization with whom Loughry was a volunteer: Hardee Animal Rescue Team out of Wauchula.
Sult said HART could have researched Loughry, who allegedly told them she adopted out the dogs she kept in her Avon Park house.
Sult said paperwork and fees should have shown whether or not animals got adopted.
“I think they are just as much at fault,” Sult said.
Meanwhile, Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman was at the Board of County Commission meeting Tuesday, but did not speak on hopes to amend county code.
Lt. Clay Kinslow, head of Animal Services, said Loughry’s most recent incident flew under local radar because she was working with an out-of-county agency.
Blackman hopes to get changes to local code to require all shelters and multiple-pet foster homes, regardless of parent organization, to register with the county for regular inspection.