A 35-year-old man is facing charges in Pasco County after deputies say he was driving a stolen U-Haul rental van.
Steven Martel is accused of living in the van along with his wife, a 72-year-old woman, 2 dogs, and 35 cats, who were said to be stacked in cages "on top of each other." Deputies say they saw "up to eight cats" in some of the cages. The cats were said to be packed in so tightly that some had yellow-stained fur and open sores.
Pasco County Animal Control recovered the animals from the van. All are said to be in good health, but are not yet available for adoption. They're under a mandatory 10-day hold because they were not surrendered voluntarily. At the end of the 10-day period, the animals could go back to their owner, or the county could decide whether to put them up for adoption or turn them over to a rescue operation.
The 72-year-old woman was found with "large open sores" on her legs, and ER doctors told deputies she had a possible bone infection from the sores and suffered from other ailments as a result of living in the van, which was reported stolen out of Newport, New Hampshire.
Martel is charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle, neglect of an elderly adult, and 35 counts of animal cruelty.
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