Jessica Ankiel seemed to run a loving rescue service out of her home, using Facebook and other websites to adopt out puppies and receive ones who needed to be fostered. But the Florida woman was recently found to be hoarding 17 dogs and two cats in revolting conditions. She and her boyfriend were arrested on charges of animal cruelty and child neglect, because there were also two children living amongst the filth.
Ankiel’s Facebook page for Ohana Dog Rescue showed pictures of healthy dogs being adopted and cared for, but pictures taken by Animal Services at Ankiel’s home clearly show a different, and shocking, story. Ohana Dog Rescue was a foster home for some Florida animal shelters, despite the fact that the rescue home was unlicensed. The Ohana Dog Rescue Facebook page said the owners were in the process of getting a 501(c)3 nonprofit license.
Anonymous Tip and a Horrifying Discovery
After receiving a tip from a member of the Florida animal rescue community, authorities investigated the home and found starving animals with hair loss and ear infections. Their bones were sharply visible through their skin and they were sitting in their own excrement in tiny cages. Some puppies were kept in a bucket, and most of the others didn’t have food or water in their cages. Luckily, these dogs and cats can be rehabilitated and will soon be up for adoption.
The house was in such bad condition that it is now condemned. About two inches of urine, feces and water covered the floors, and tarps covered furniture and numerous animal cages because of rain leaking through the ceiling. Surfaces and floors were covered in trash and spoiled food. The Orange County animal control officers said that the conditions were “the worst they’ve ever seen.”
Ankiel’s boyfriend, Abrhamam Israel, knew about the mess and neglect and told officials he was “tired of cleaning up after Ankiel.”¯ According to arrest reports, he was charged with failure to report child abuse, child neglect, and leaving a firearm within close reach of a minor. Ankiel’s son and daughter have been placed with a grandparent while the Florida Department of Children and Families investigates.
Deception on Facebook
The Facebook page of the rescue service, which has been taken down, showed pictures of happy puppies, along with adoption updates and requests for donations through Paypal. Ankiel also asked people who liked the page to donate cages and medications for worms. Other animal rescue groups with Facebook pages warned animal lovers and adopters about the legitimacy of Ohana Dog Rescue, and the warnings likely saved the animals’ lives.
Many Facebook users were deceived by Ankiel’s supposed dog rescue and shocked by the actual conditions. It’s hard to blame them when Ankiel was hiding behind a Facebook page and posting pictures of healthy looking dogs. Neighbors say they had no idea she was even operating a rescue service, because they never saw any animals outside.
Treating the animals the way she did entirely defeats the purpose of an animal “rescue,” that much is clear. It makes you wonder, did this woman even care about the animals, or was she just scamming animal lovers for money? Why did she even attempt to run an animal rescue when she clearly didn’t have the resources?
How to Ensure a Rescuer is Legitimate
Millions of unwanted animals are given to shelters each year and often end up on “kill lists.” Volunteer-run rescues are so important because they give these perfectly worthy animals another chance. The Great Animal Rescue Chase sets a great list of guidelines that should be followed by anyone who wants to run an animal rescue. Ankiel’s shameful Ohana Dog Rescue blatantly disregarded the fourth rule- “thou shall not hoard.”
When adopting an animal from a rescue home, it is important to make sure they are licensed and to always ask to tour the facility. While it is difficult to know what is going on behind closed doors, finding out the details can save animals’ lives. There are many resources available to pet lovers who want to find or provide safe homes for animals. There is a registry of animal abusers that shelters and breeders can check before adopting out animals. Additionally, Petfinder provides a database of registered nonprofit rescue groups and shelters that makes it especially easy to find a credible and humane service near you.
If you are interested in running a local animal rescue shelter or already operate one, the Humane Society has a great list of resources for any rescuer.
Photos from Orange County Animal Services
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