Oldsmar couple charged with child abuse, animal cruelty - FOX 13 News

Oldsmar couple charged with child abuse, animal cruelty

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O'Neil, a 28-year-old Oldsmar resident, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail early Sunday morning. O'Neil, a 28-year-old Oldsmar resident, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail early Sunday morning.

It was a sight that was difficult to imagine.

Even in this day and age where television shows are built around folks who ‘hoard' various items how did it get this bad so fast?

Authorities say an Oldsmar residence was home to nearly 300 animals of various shapes, sizes and species.

"We're looking at snakes, rabbits, hedgehogs, rats, numerous animals and dogs," explained Jill Purl an official with Tampa

Deputies with the Pinellas County Deputies discovered the small zoo when they were called to the home early Sunday morning by Jeffrey O'Neil and Jennifer Kovacs.

The couple claimed a 16-month-old child left in their care was missing. O'Neil, 28, and Kovacs, 26, were under the impression that the child had crawled out its crib and walked out the front door.

Investigators say when they got to the home just after 6 a.m. the couple was drunk. They also failed to notice a note from a relative stating they had taken the baby before they called for help.

The relative also says several attempts to wake up O'Neil from his slumber on the coach were unsuccessful.

The deputies also noticed the couple had quite a collection of animals.

"At this stage, looking at the animals, this is definitely a case of animal hoarding," Purl added.

The child the suspects thought was missing is with relatives and is in good condition.

O'Neil and Kovacs aren't the only ones living in this ‘animal kingdom,' if you well. Jennifer's mother Joyce Kovacs also resides at 206 Lee St.

"You just can't imagine having that many critters," said Joyce Kovacs.

She claims most of the animals arrived when O'Neil moved in nearly three years ago. Joyce Kovacs says the couple isn't hoarding the critters, it's a business.

"They just breed and breed and breed and breed and they use them, they have multiple snakes and reptiles," Joyce Kovacs says. "They would go, sometimes to the flea market on the weekend and they would sell bunnies and hedgehogs, they would post on Craigslist and stuff like that."

According to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report the animals were being bred and sold without the proper licensing permits.

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are also investigating the couple's actions.

So why would Joyce Kovacs put up with all the animals?

She says she lived in what she called a "pig pen" because of the 16-month-old child.

The little girl is her daughter and O'Neil's baby who also lives in the home.

Joyce: "How do you put a baby out?"

O'Neil and Jennifer Kovacs are being held without bond at the Pinellas County Jail. They are facing child abuse and animal cruelty charges.

Joyce is worried about them but is glad the animals are gone. She is hoping to be awarded custody of the child.

"It just started getting overwhelming and I just couldn't deal with it," she says.

The Tampa Bay SPCA said they try to get them to sign over the animals, if they don't they will file for custody for every one of them.


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