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A Miller County woman has been charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty after hundreds of exotic animals, including snakes, lizards and rats, were taken from her home.

Franziska D. Santifer, 29, is scheduled to appear in court June 10, said Miller County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Mark Lewis.

Document: Animal Cruelty Search Warrant


The smell of ammonia was so strong in the home that animal rescue volunteers had to wear respirators to enter the premises, according to an affidavit for the search warrant. Several dead snakes and one dead kitten were also found inside a freezer. More dead snakes were found inside containers, according to the affidavit.

Sheriff's deputies had received some calls from concerned citizens about the animals, and investigators served a search warrant April 9 at the residence in the 10700 block of U.S. Highway 82, Lewis said.

Volunteers from local animal rescues took the lead on removing the animals from the home and taking care of them, Lewis said.

About 260 rats were seized along with 10 pythons, several other snakes, a bearded dragon, a gecko, four hamsters, two rabbits, a ferret and several birds. Six dogs, two puppies and a kitten were also among the animals seized from the home.

The majority of the animals were living in their own feces and urine, according to the affidavit.

One of the volunteers opened a container with a snake inside it. "Immediately my breath was taken away by the strong odor of ammonia emitted from the plastic container," a deputy wrote in his report.

All of the snake containers were covered in feces and snake sheds, according to the affidavit.

The puppy pen was also covered in feces and urine and there was limited clean water and food, according to the affidavit.

Elyssa Teel with Ark-La-Tex Animal Rescue said foster homes have been found for all of the exotic animals.

A 6-year-old Doberman still needs a foster home. It would do well with limited dogs and older children. she said.

Donations can be made to Ark-La-Tex Animal Rescue's Paypal at Donations are tax-deductible.

Funds will be distributed to any of the animals who need it. Two of the dogs that fosters have taken are heart-worm positive, which will be a large bill in its own, Teel said.

Donations of dog food along with shredded paper for the the rats' housing are also appreciated, Teel said.

Any monetary donations will also go to the individuals and the wildlife rehab assisting with the exotics.

The mailing address for Ark-La-Tex Animal Rescue is 307 Sunray Road, Texarkana, Texas 75501.