(INDIANAPOLIS) - An Indianapolis woman faces 42 criminal charges in what prosecutors called one of the worst cases of animal neglect they've ever seen.
Mary Smith, 60, was charged with multiple counts of misdemeanor abandonment or neglect of an animal after 42 dirty, malnourished and sick dogs were found locked in her home at 1520 E. 87th St., police said.
Indianapolis Animal Care and Control officers were called to the home in early June after complaints from neighbors who said they hadn't seen Smith in at least two weeks, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
"The living area visible through the window was unfit for any living thing to be contained in," officers noted in the probable cause affidavit. "Feces coated the floor in a solid layer approximately 3 inches deep. No surface inside of the residence was free of animal feces."
When officers entered the home, they found the carcasses of seven dogs, including two puppies and one dog still locked in its crate, according to the affidavit.
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With no food or water found anywhere in the home, it's believed the living dogs had been forced to eat off the rotting corpses and drink each other's urine to survive.
"It appears they started feeding on the dead bodies of the other dogs. It's not something we've seen before," said April Fisher, animal cruelty prosecutor. "We don't want animals to go through this kind of thing."
All of the surviving dogs suffered from advanced flea infestations, prompting bleeding wounds, hair loss and eye infections, officers said.
Some of the dogs also had issues walking due to poorly developed limbs, including one dog that was missing a paw, according to the affidavit.
Neighbors said they knew something was wrong when they didn't see Smith for weeks.
"I could smell the house and I didn't notice anyone living there except for the dogs," said Aaron Poppen, who called Animal Care and Control. "Before (I would say to the dogs), 'Stop yapping.' They were probably calling me for help. I'm glad I called and finally did something about it."
When police were finally able to locate Smith, they found her living in Terre Haute.
She told police that she drove to Indianapolis twice a week to care for the dogs, but she denied having seen any dead dogs in the home.
"(She said she) did not own the dogs, they owned themselves," according to the affidavit.
Smith later signed an owner surrender form for the animals.
A warrant has been issued for Smith's arrest. If convicted on all charges, she could face a year in prison for each animal.
"This is a case that's extensive, primarily because of the number of dogs, so that's going to put us in a different category," Fisher said. "We want the community to know you do have to treat animals a certain way."
Smith will also face civil charges for care and treatment of animals, not having rabies vaccines and disposition of dead animals.
The Department of Code Enforcement has issued an order to demolish the house.
Animal Care and Control officers said all of the living animals have been adopted.
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