Sheriff’s deputies in Oldsmar Florida made a shocking discovery when responding to the report of a missing child. When they entered the home, they were confronted with nearly 300 reptiles and animals.
Deputies received a call around 6:00 Sunday morning from Jeffrey O’Neil and Jennifer Kovacks, stating that a 16-month-old child in their care had disappeared. The couple reportedly told deputies that they suspected the child of climbing out of the crib, unlocking the front door and escaping their home.
When deputies arrived, according to ABC Action News, the couple was visibly intoxicated. They eventually found a note left by a relative who had retrieved the child sometime during the previous evening. The relative reportedly discovered the child crying and was unable to wake Jeffrey O’Neil despite several attempts.
Authorities at the scene immediately noted that the couple had been hoarding numerous reptiles and other animals in deplorable conditions. Deputies contacted the SPCA who were able to determine that O’Neil and Kovacs were keeping nearly 300 animals in and around their home. The animals found included:
“Seven Burmese Pythons, 20 other kinds of snakes, seven monitor lizards, 100 bearded lizards, two dead scorpion spiders, a 100 rats and mice, finch birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, squirrels, hamsters, gerbils and hedgehogs.”
According to a report from Fox Tampa Bay, Investigators believe the animals were being bred and sold illegally. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission representatives were at the scene to collect some of the reptiles.
The couple was arrested for child abuse and animal cruelty. They are being held on felony charges at the Pinellas county jail awaiting their initial appearance on Monday morning.