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Deputies: Dead, decaying cats and sick dogs found at Salisbury home

Barbara Hart (WSOC photo)

SALISBURY, N.C. - The smell of urine, feces and dead animals coming from a home in Rowan County was so strong that deputies and animal control officers had to put on protective gear while investigating an animal abuse case, according to investigators.

Rowan County Animal Control officers began investigating a possible animal cruelty case Monday at the home of Barbara Hart on Lincolnton Road in Salisbury.

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Hart is known in the community as an animal advocate and even has a room named after her at an animal shelter, but neighbors said she was rarely seen at her home taking care of her own pets.

Deputies and animal control officers said Wednesday that they only made it to the sidewalk in front of the house before they were hit by the smell of urine, feces and the smell of some type of dead animal coming from the property.

Neighbor Thelma Stone said the smell sickened her.

"Reminiscent of emptying a full bedpan in hot weather when there was no air conditioning," Stone said. "It was like being hit in the face."

No one was home, but deputies went to the back of the home and found five dogs in the backyard. They said there was no food and no fresh water. One of the older dogs had portions of its fur missing and had a strong odor coming from its body, according to investigators. It appeared that some type of bugs might have eaten the dog's fur and skin.

Hart came back home later on in the day and deputies served her with a search warrant in order to go inside the home.

Salisbury City Fire Department also responded to the address and provided investigators with self-contained breathing apparatuses so that investigators could manage to enter the home in spite of the smell.

Deputies said there were feces all over the residence, and in some places, it was so thick that it prevented doors from completely opening.

Animal control officers found three dead and decaying cats behind a couch in a living room of the house. A cat skull was also located under a bed.

Hart admitted that the animals belonged to her.

She was interviewed by deputies Thursday and arrested Friday morning. She is charged with animal cruelty.

Veterinarians responded to the home and inspected the animals. They are now in the custody of animal control. The staff said they're going to try and nurse the dogs back to health, but it's not clear if they'll be able to save all of them.

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