By ROBERT BOYER
Karen Jensen Howard, the 53-year-old Highlands County woman accused July 4 of allowing more than 50 parrots to die in filthy and sweltering conditions, is scheduled to be arraigned 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in courtroom 1B at the Highlands County Courthouse before Judge Anthony Ritenour.
On Sept. 16, Howard was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals after Highlands County sheriff's investigators conducted an investigation. The charges are first-degree misdemeanors, court records show.
Court records list the address of Howard's attorney, William Fletcher, but don't list Howard's address.
Jeff McLain, the president of Parrots as Pets Rescue of Orlando, has said it was "by far" the worst case of animal hoarding he had seen in 25-plus years of working as an animal rescuer.
At least 80 parrots were forced to live among rodents, snakes, cockroaches, spiders and other pests that covered the floor of the unventilated makeshift parrot enclosure at 200 Turkey Lane. Some of the dead parrots were reduced to skeletons, and spider webs were so thick they obscured the parrots' cages inside the room, McLain said.
Donnalee Ping and Stewart Scrimshaw became the property's caretakers just days before, after brokering a deal with property owner Sandra Chandler that required them to care for the property in exchange for room and board, and for Ping boarding her horse on the 5-acre property, which has horses, a cow, a pig, four goats and two ducks that are well-kept, Ping said.
Ping said that she and Scrimshaw are no longer taking care of the property, which Chandler had leased to Howard roughly two years ago.
After leasing a portion of the property, Howard erected a 12-foot-by-12-foot structure with posts, metal-screen walls, a plywood roof, tarps that wrapped around the four walls and metal skirting.
"When we opened the door, I immediately began to cry and vomit at the same time," Ping said. "The floor was crawling with roaches and ants and spiders and snakes."
The stench of dead birds was unbearable..." More