GREENACRES, Fla. — No one passing by the townhome on 27th Lane would have suspected the horrible conditions inside that led authorities to rescue nearly 50 cats living there.

The manicured lawn and a back yard opening onto a lake belied the stacks of garbage bags and stench of urine inside the Sherwood Lakes home. Scores of cats scaled the trash heaps in what investigators are calling the biggest recent case of animal hoarding in Palm Beach County.

The neglect came to light when the townhome owner suffered a medical problem March 6 and was hospitalized. Worried about her cats, she asked authorities to look after them.

When county Animal Care and Control crews arrived, they had to call other county departments for help with what they found. They spent two weeks removing cats from the home. The final tally: two dead and 45 alive.

“It is probably the worst hoarding case that we’ve seen in Palm Beach County,” Animal Care and Control Capt. David Walesky said. He described the home’s condition as “very, very deplorable.”

Animal Care and Control is receiving more calls about hoarding as more people learn about the problem.

Of the many calls reporting possible animal cruelty, investigators find that about one a day involves a hoarder. Extreme situations such as the one in Greenacres are found every few months.

Another extreme hoarding case was that of Chi Lu Linville of Loxahatchee. In 2002, crews removed hundreds of goats from her home. In 2003, they removed almost 200 pigs, cats, sheep and cows.

Linville became so enraged that she enlisted a hit man – actually an undercover Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy posing as as a hit man – to shoot Tammie Crawford, an Animal Care and Control officer, and dump her body into a canal. Linville was convicted in 2005 of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

Also fresh in Walesky’s mind were the 52 animals found in a western Boynton Beach home in 2000. In that same house was a roomful of dead animals the homeowner just couldn’t let go of.

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