Complaints of barking dogs and a strong stench at a Belvedere home led to the discovery Thursday morning of a disabled woman living with 70 dogs, nine cats and two birds in a feces-ridden home, Aiken County officials said.
At least half of the dogs were found to be diseased and were euthanized, police said.
Officials charged 58-year-old Grace Harris with two misdemeanor offenses: ill treatment of animals and keeping domesticated animals in unsanitary conditions, Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian said.
A county building inspector declared her home in the 500 block of Audubon Circle uninhabitable, and Chief Magistrate Judge Roger Edmonds ordered her to live elsewhere until a June 19 court date.
"There were feces all over the floor. And the smell ... It's not conducive for her to live in," said building inspector Alton Johnson, who described the woman as "a clutter person."
Ms. Harris stood in her front yard and sobbed Thursday morning as animal control officials carried her pets to cages in the back of their white pickup trucks.
"They said one had the mange, but he doesn't have the mange," Ms. Harris said as she cried. "He's just allergic to something."
A self-professed animal lover, she said she picked up many of the pets as strays and was working to find them homes.
"I picked up my big red dog from behind the Salvation Army when she was a puppy," Ms. Harris said.
She said she was receiving disability payments and using most of it to clean and feed the pets. She said they had shots.
Asked whether she had too many pets, she said, "I just took care of what the good Lord gave me."
Ms. Harris said the unsanitary conditions in her home came over several years.
"With what little bit I live on, of course, I take care of my babies first. And then I do what ever else I can with the help of the church," she said.
Ms. Harris, who lives alone, said that the junk piling up in her truck was scrap metal that she sold for extra money but that the vehicle had broken down..
Neighbors had complained repeatedly about barking dogs, a terrible odor and junk in her yard. But county officials said they couldn't take action until five residents living within 1,000 feet signed a petition that allowed them to obtain a search warrant, Mr. Johnson said.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said she signed the petition to get county assistance for the woman.
"She cost us the sale of a house because of her junk," the woman said. "I am happy that they are helping her get straightened out. Hopefully, this will help her get her yard cleaned up and help the neighborhood."
Mr. Johnson said he is working with other county agencies to help Ms. Harris clean up her home.
Judge Edmonds released Ms. Harris on a personal recognizance bond, and authorities said she was expected to live with a friend.
Mr. Killian said a veterinarian was examining the animals to determine whether any could be saved. He said he was unaware what specific diseases the pets had, but he said he thought it was intestinal-related. He would not allow animal control officials to comment.
Mr. Killian said the animals that survive must be held until after the court date before they could be considered for adoption.
Thursday's actions follow continuing problems with pet owners in Aiken County.
In March, 184 dogs were confiscated from a Salley home, and pet breeder Kathleen Humes was charged with animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions. Dozens of the dogs were put to sleep.
Last year, a magistrate banned an Aiken woman from owning any more dogs or cats after officials found 32 dogs and nine cats living in "horrible conditions" in her home. Forty of the 41 animals had to be killed because of unsanitary conditions, officials said.
Any surviving pets will be held until after a June 19 court date. Unless a judge returns the pets to Grace Harris, they could be put up for adoption.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or email@example.com.