LIGHTHOUSE POINT (CBSMiami) – A horrible case of animal abuse and cruelty in Lighthouse Point.
Chopper4 was overhead as police made a truly disturbing discovery inside a home Friday afternoon.
Lighthouse Point officers found 68 cats and dogs that they say are living in horrific dirty conditions. Eight of those cats were dead.
“My heart breaks. This is very heart breaking,” said neighbor Kathy Damen.
Officers said they were alerted about the home when a dog escaped from the back yard earlier in the week and viciously attacked another dog that was being walked by its owner.
Police had reason to believe that the owner was hoarding cats and dogs.
One commander told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench it’s the worst case he’s seen.
“I’ve been an officer for 24 years and I have never seen this type of horrific conditions. There were feces about two inches thick,” Lighthouse Point Police Commander Jack Vaccaro said.
The officers were forced to wear hazmat suits because of conditions and smells from inside the home at 2230 NE 38th Street.
The smells were so strong they could be detected outside the home. Food and water bowls were infested with bugs and dirt. Utilities were not working.
“The house had no electricity or running water,” said Damen.
The surviving cats and dogs were in terrible shape.
“They looked in dire need of medical attention,” Vaccaro said.
Police said the homeowner is 69-year-old Linda Teresa Giaccio.
Records show she’s been arrested before for abusing horses and confining animals.
Authorities say Giaccio has an extensive history in Broward hoarding animals – causing health concerns.
“She had told me she had more than 20 animals, but I knew from the stench it was more than that,” said a neighbor who only identified himself as Fred.
Damen said Giaccio didn’t even live at the home.
“She would be here periodically to feed the animals… she would be in and out,” she said. “We tried to help in the past, but she was beyond help.”
Police said Giaccio lived here off and on over the years.
Authorities said she was evicted three weeks ago from another home in Hollywood and was seen leaving in a truck or van with 60 animals and cats.
“We found her sleeping outside because the conditions inside were so bad that we doubted that anyone could live here,” Lighthouse Point Police Chief Ross Licata said.
It’s an alarming story for activist Debi Day of No Kill Nation.
“Animal abuse needs to be taken seriously. In the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in violations and citations,” Day said.” I think in this case if the municipality would send a message people would stop, but in a lot of cases people turn a blind eye and animals get killed.”
Records show Giaccio has also been arrested before for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Late Friday night, Lighthouse Point police confirmed to CBS4 News that Giaccio was in custody and was headed to the Broward County Mail Jail to be booked.
CBS4 News did some digging on Giaccio and found that in March the city of Lighthouse Point cited her for maintaining animals in an unsanitary environment at her home.
According to a transcript from a court hearing, Giaccio said she was a longtime casino worker who was having money problems.
She told a magistrate, “I’ve been doing this for 28 years. I rescue, I get them spayed and neutered. I get them homes. I mean I don’t know what more I can do.”
At that time, there were complaints about the odor at the home.
Giaccio told the magistrate “…it doesn’t smell if you go over there today. OK and I’m doing the best I can. The animals are taken care of.”
All the animals will be treated by licensed professionals.