Over 50 Starving Cats, 10 Dead Allegedly Found at Former Animal Rescuer's Home

A woman who previously worked at an animal rescue center has been accused of hoarding more than 50 cats in her apartment in inhumane conditions.

Michelline Toulouse, 36, worked with Saving Sage Animal Rescue in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but was let go after allegedly stealing from the organization.

The alleged discovery of the cats in her apartment was made when another worker decided to check on Toulouse at her home, Local 10 reports.

She was nowhere to be seen but the worker instead said they found more than 50 cats, starving and living in their own waste. They said at least 10 of them were already dead.

Local 10 and 7 News Miami both shared footage from the apartment, in the city of Sunrise, where the cats were found. The cats were rescued by the Saving Sage group.

Gina Vlasek, who is President of the Saving Sage Animal Rescue, said: "We had to let her go. That was before we discovered what was going on in the house."

She went on to explain that the situation had taken its toll on her, admitting: "It's hard to believe it's the same person.

"I can't comprehend it. I've, like I said, haven't been able to sleep. It's been very, very difficult and very stressful.

"It was just the most horrific thing that you could ever imagine. No food, there was urine in the water bowls and at least one of the cats died within the last 12 hours and was eaten halfway down.

"She had every opportunity not to do this to the animals that she claimed that she loved. This isn't love, this is selfish."

While Toulouse has not yet been charged with any crime in relation to the suffering animals, she was arrested on Tuesday due to the allegations of theft.

Toulouse appeared in court on Wednesday charged with criminal mischief and petit theft.

This came after CCTV appeared to show her stealing money from a drawer in the office.

Her boyfriend, Jerome Vaughn Jr., was also charged with the same crime.

On Wednesday morning she appeared in front of judge, who granted her pretrial release. Meanwhile, Vaughn Jr. was bonded out.

In footage from Local 10 following her release, Toulouse said: "This is not cat related."

It is not yet known if Toulouse will face charges for the cats living at her property.

However, according to Florida's animal protection laws the situation could be punishable by either a fine of up to $5,000, prison or both.

The statute reads: "A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree."

Newsweek has reached out to Saving Sage Animal Rescue and Sunrise Police Department for comment.

Stray cats
A stock image of a group stray cat eating from the same bowl. A Florida woman was accused of hoarding over 50 cats, who were living in horrific conditions. Getty Images