CRESTVIEW — Animal control officers assisted by law enforcement are investigating the death and possible abuse of more than 20 pets at a home just north of Crestview.
They were called to the house on Woodcliff Drive after an Okaloosa County sheriff's deputy noticed the smell and saw dead animals while checking on the welfare of a woman believed to be living there.
The deputy did not find the woman, but called the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society for animal control assistance.
The woman's father, who had called for the welfare check, arrived at the home. He said he didn't live there, but all the mail in the house was addressed to him, according to Panhandle Animal Welfare Society animal control officer Ashley Lacey.
“We got a call out here to assist the police because they smelled and were able to see animals wrapped in blankets in the woodland, so I came out based on that," Lacey said.
Because the man operates Danny's Dog House pet boarding facility in Niceville, PAWS officials asked for the Niceville Police Department's help to obtain a search warrant for the boarding facility. PAWS Director Dee Thompson said that animal control officers could see the animals standing in a "week's worth of feces," but were told that there wasn't enough evidence to gain a warrant.
The man told officers exactly how many animals they would find at the home in Crestview.
Nine dogs, six cats and two rabbits were found in a garbage can in various stages of decomposition. Another four dead dogs were found wrapped in blankets in the treeline.
"He said that he didn't know about (the deaths); that they were his babies," Lacey said. "He said that had he known that they were in that condition, that he would have beat the hell out of his daughter on his own."
The animals were placed in the trash in the past 48 hours, she said. The cats and rabbits had been placed in storage containers.
Lacey said she could tell where many of the animals had died because fur and other signs of decomposition in kennels at the home matched the animals found in the garbage.
The man who was at the house said he is moving the Danny's Dog House shelter to the address on Woodcliff Drive He said the boarding part of the business would stay in Niceville.
There were two healthy cats in the house.
Lacey said there were feces everywhere and that the cats had access to the rooms where some of the other animals apparently died. She said some of the bones were missing and speculated that the cats may have moved them.
"We were concerned about the animals at his other facility," in Niceville, Thompson said. "We will be getting a civil petition on Monday."
The Daily News called the number for Danny's Dog House in Niceville. A man who said his name was Danny James answered the phone and identified himself as the owner.
When asked if he plans to move his business to the home near Crestview, he said, "not now I don't."
The same man was also identified as the person who originally called a welfare check on his daughter. He said he had not been at the home since August 2018. He declined to answer any further questions.