A Florida couple was arrested Monday night and is out on bond, facing 47 counts of animal cruelty stemming from a June 7 seizure of nearly 700 cats, according to court records.
The pair, identified as Pennie and Steve Lefkowitz, were the owners of Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary in High Springs, Florida.
Initially Steve, 65, and Pennie, 59, were charged with 35 counts, however prosecutors later amended that to 47 - 46 for cats and one for a rooster.
The charges are third-degree felonies.
The Lefkowitzes operated Haven Acres for several years, creating a controversy when they were given a special permit to operate by the Alachua County Commission over the objections of neighbors and the city of High Springs.
The permit was granted under the condition that the pair would greatly reduce the number of cats they kept. Instead, investigators, acting on a cruelty allegation, found hundreds more.
A statement on the Haven Acres Web site says:
"The sanctuary is not accepting cats. Please discontinue all drop offs of kittens and cats onto the property. Thank you for your cooperation."
Alachua County Animal Services director David Flager told the Gainesville Sun:
"The number of animals will indicate to the court the seriousness - that we were not dealing with just a couple of animals. These [counts] seem o represent the problem there. We had a large number of animals that were dying when we found them."
State Attorney Bill Cervone said in a statement:
"I view this as a case of hoarding. These people started out well intentioned... but they were in way, way , way over their head."
Over 60 of the seized cats had to be euthanized because they were determined to be too far gone to be healed. The remainder are being treated in a Gainesville warehouse and are getting ready for a large "adopt-a-thon" scheduled for Aug 26-28.
This is the biggest case of cat hoarding the Humane Society of the United States has ever participated in and is one of the top three largest cat hoarding cases in U.S. history.