SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WALA) - FOX10 News continues to follow the case involving dead animals found inside a Santa Rosa County home on Tuesday.
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office is working with the Florida State's Attorney's Office and plan to file charges soon, which could mean an arrest is forthcoming.
A lawyer with the state's attorney's office said once investigators turn over the case, they will review it for probable cause. They said if the case meets the requirements, it will go before a judge for further review.
The judge could sign a warrant for the suspect's arrest.
The sheriff's office said this is a complicated case and they are taking the necessary steps to ensure a solid case goes before a judge.
"We need to show who had ownership of the animals and who left them in the house," said Sgt. Scott Haines, spokesperson with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office.
On Tuesday, sheriff's deputies entered a Winding Shore Drive home and discovered seven dead animals inside.
They said the home was in foreclosure and the former owner of the home, Toni Phelps, has denied owning the animals, claiming instead to have given them away.
But, Haines said investigators found pet tags and medication inside the home that they traced to two veterinarian clinics, and he said shows who owned the pets.
"The thing is with the pets being deceased we need to be able to show through pictures or other evidence that this women did own these animals. I know it sounds a little strange, but she could always say someone put them in the house, they got in to the house -- something like that," said Sgt. Haines.
Sergeant Haines was called out to the home on Tuesday and collected evidence from the home.
"It was absolutely disgusting, there's no other word for it. Deputies have to go in to some dirty houses, ones that you would consider disgusting homes, but this was off the charts, this was, in my career definitely in the top three," said Sgt. Haines.
Santa Rosa County Animal Services became involved with this case back in October when an anonymous caller told them dogs had been abandoned inside the home.
An animal control officer first responded on October 19, and then three more times before they finally spoke to Toni Phelps, the now former owner of the property.
Phelps refused to meet the officer at the residence and said there were no animals inside the home.
A spokesperson for the Santa Rosa County Animal Control said the officer did not hear any dogs barking during any of the animal welfare checks at the home.
Animal Control officers walked the property and could see the rear of the property through a damaged backyard fence, but blinds were shut and a blanket covered the patio door view.
She said without seeing or hearing anything the animal control officer has no cause to involve law enforcement.
The spokesperson also said animal control officers tried to contact a neighbor, but no one was home at the time.
"These dogs were left there. They were abandoned, neglected intentionally. It was not like there was an access point that they could've got in to the home to try to find shelter or anything like that, these animals were locked inside that house with no chance of survival," said Sgt. Haines.
If you know anything about this case call the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office.
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