Search for toddler leads to seizure of close to 300 reptiles, rodents, birds from house in Florida

OLDSMAR, Fla. - The search for a missing toddler led authorities to seize about 300 animals ranging from reptiles to hamsters from a home in Oldsmar, Florida.

Deputies initially responded to the residence around 6 a.m. Sunday, after the couple living there reported the 16 month old they were caring for was missing.

Jeffrey O’Neil, 28, and Jennifer Kovacs, 26, claimed the child had managed to get out of its crib, open the front door and leave. They told deputies the child had been missing for about an hour.

Once on scene deputies found the couple under the influence of alcohol. Deputies also found a note from a relative that stated they had taken the child to their house after they found the child crying and could not wake up O’Neil.

Officials say that as deputies investigated the scene they discovered the home to be in terrible condition with over a 100 animals spaced out in 88 cages.

Pinellas SPCA responded to the scene and seized roughly 298 animals from the home. The count and type of animals seized included: seven Burmese Pythons, 20 other kinds of snakes, seven monitor lizards, 100 bearded lizards, two dead scorpion spiders, a 100 rats and mice, finch birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, squirrels, hamsters, gerbils and hedgehogs.

The animals were reported to have been kept outside and inside the house. Officers had to locate a lizard they believed to have burrowed itself in the backyard.

O’Neil and Kovacs were arrested by Pinellas County Sheriff deputies for child abuse and animal cruelty.