SEBRING — Rumors circulated Monday that Jinece Elizabeth Loughry, 66, facing 24 counts of felony animal cruelty, might get to keep pets again.
This was flatly denied by officials at the State Attorney’s Office who said the plea deal offered to Loughry did not contain any provisions for owning pets, given a history of animal hoarding and charges that 24 of the 72 animals at her Avon Park home on Memorial Drive had died in her care.
Assistant State Attorney Courtney Lenhart said she has offered Loughry the option of 32 months in prison (2.75 years) or a lesser sentence of 24 months (two years) and two years probation.
There have been no discussions of Loughry owning any pets at all, Lenhart said. She expected that there still might be some negotiation of the final charges, but those discussions haven’t taken place yet, Lenhart said.
Loughry’s plea hearing is set for 1:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26.
In January, she originally faced 72 counts of animal cruelty for the number of animals living in unsanitary conditions at her home at 1367 Memorial Drive in Avon Park.
Her charges were later reduced to 24 to reflect the animals that had died in her care. The remaining animals, it turned out, were alive and well, relatively speaking.
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services deputies got word her house was crowded with animals, and they arrived to a foul odor of feces and decay.
Inside, they found dozens of animals either loose or in cages, 48 in all. They also found 23 dead animals in various stages of decay in various locations, including under a bed, on a bed and between the mattresses of a bed.
A 24th animal died as they were processing the scene.
A former associate of Loughy, Mary Sult of Animal Resource Center in Bloomsberg, Pennsylvania, knew who the case was about when she heard word of an animal neglect case in Florida.
Sult said Loughry had been involved in an animal hoarding case seven years ago — May 2012 in Berwick, Pennsylvania — before they moved away to Florida.
At the time, Sult said, Loughry was the township’s “Dog Warden,” the animal control officer.
When Loughry had to go away for training, Sult said, and hired Evy Lysk as a pet sitter to look after her animals, Lysk 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.
Still, Loughry resigned her town post and planned to become a Pennsylvania humane officer, the Press Enterprise reported.
Sult describes a humane officer as being concerned with animal welfare, where an animal control officer sees to human safety.