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Crime & Courts

Florida couple faces charges of abuse, cruelty after hoarding nearly 300 animals

A Florida couple is being held after authorities discovered a small zoo inside their home with nearly 300 animals, ranging from reptiles to dogs.

Pinellas County investigators say they were tipped off to the zoo on Sunday after Jeffrey O’Neil, 28, and Jennifer Kovacs, 26, called police and said a 16-month-old child in their care was missing. When authorities arrived, the Oldsmar couple was apparently drunk and didn’t see a note saying that a relative took the baby and called for help, reports.

The Tampa Bay SPCA says the discovery is a case of animal hoarding.

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

Kovacs’ mother, Joyce, said the couple was breeding the animals for sales at flea markets and on Craigslist.

The child is in good condition, while O’Neil and Kovacs are being held without bond at Pinellas County Jail, facing charges of child abuse and animal cruelty.

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