Complaints from neighbors prompted Wayne County animal cruelty investigators to execute a search warrant on a Wolcott home. Marie Koons says she's lived there with her three children for eight years and now owns the property.
Investigators seized nearly 100 animals from the home on Friday, including rabbits, chickens, horses, ducks and geese. A dead chicken was discovered in the front yard.
Investigators say the animals were malnourished, some dehydrated and many covered with their own feces.
Koons, who asked that her face not be shown, says that isn't the case.
"Cages get cleaned weekly. None of them were sitting in their own feces like the news said, the investigator. He can't go by one day of coming here when the owner's not home and forcing his way in by threatening and take his opinions on one day," Koons said.
The staff at Cracker Box Palace spent all day Friday rounding up the animals. They'll stay at the shelter in Alton until nursed back to health then put up for adoption.
Three horses that were seized all seem happy and well fed. The rabbits are showing signs of improvement, although some are still in quarantine.
Elaine Roets says most of the animals appeared to be unkept and in rough shape when they arrived.
"Their fur was matted. Some of them were sick and we took five to the vet that very night. Then we had five more over there, one passed away. Some of the angora's had to be shaved because they were so matted."
Wayne County District Attorney Rick Healy says cases such as Koons' are not out of the ordinary. He says people start out with good intentions, then get in way over their head.
"We call it animal abuse, kind of a general term. In my opinion, it becomes abuse when the animal suffers. In fact, that's the definition of animal abuse, when the animals suffer, they're not given enough food or water, they live in filthy squalor and in the end the animal suffers."
Healy says charges of animal cruelty and endangering the welfare of a child may be filed next week against Koons. He says living conditions were unsafe for children, let alone the animals.
Koons says she will fight the charges and try to get her animals back.