Reports of a 400-pound pig running amok drew authorities to a Minnesota animal rescue home on Wednesday — but what authorities found when they arrived was even more frightening, the sheriff’s office said.
Beyond the gigantic hog, the woman was keeping a menagerie of 100 animals at the rented house in rural Farmington, which she had turned into an animal rescue nonprofit. There were five dogs, a hamster and as many as 40 cats, according to the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. But those were just the living animals, authorities said. Even more animals at the home were dead — including 60 or more cats and a rabbit, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
“It’s about as bad as you can get,” Keith Streff, a Humane Society investigator, said at a news conference. “It's a catastrophic environment.”
Neighbors said the rescue home's yard was in disarray and smelled disgusting, the Star-Tribune reports. A search of the property explained why: The dozens of dead cats at the single-family home had been laid to rest in a detached garage, a freezer and in shallow graves in the yard, according to the sheriff’s office.
The woman who ran Minnesota Animal Rescue, Caycee Bregel, 25, was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty Wednesday following the search, WCCO reports. On Friday, Bregel was released from the Dakota County jail, and prosecutors announced she wouldn’t face animal cruelty charges — for now, at least.
"We take claims of animal abuse very seriously,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a statement on Friday. “Further investigation is needed to determine the cause of these cats’ deaths and who is responsible.”
The animals that were still alive were handed over to the Humane Society, WCCO reports.
The goal of the nonprofit had been to reduce the number of pets euthanized in Minnesota, according to the animal rescue's website. Farmington, where the nonprofit was located, is just outside of the Twin Cities.
“We are committed to lowering the euthanasia rates in the Twin Cities, the state of Minnesota, and the Midwest,” the website says. “By rescuing animals placed on the euthanasia list at local shelters and impounds, we are helping pave the way to make the world a better place for the most vulnerable animals.”
The nonprofit advertised extensive rehabilitation programs for pets — including medical and behavioral help — “to give even the most unrescuable animals the best life possible,” the website said.
But the facts on the ground said otherwise, according to authorities: “Obviously, that got out of control,” Streff said of the operation, according to the Star-Tribune.
The person Bregel had rented the home from told authorities he had been on the property as recently as November, and found the home to be in good condition then, the Dakota County Tribune reports.
Authorities said Bregel was “very casual, very receptive, very cooperative” when she was arrested, according to the Tribune. Investigators also said complaints about the condition of Bregel’s home had been coming in for months — and that she could have even more pets housed at another location.
“We will continue to work on this complex and important investigation with the County Attorney’s Office and the Animal Humane Society,” Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said in a statement Friday.