More than 700 animals removed from unlicensed Muncie store

MUNCIE, Ind. - Muncie Animal Control officers were processing the largest animal removal in Delaware County history Wednesday.

Authorities said a man had 710 mice, birds, hedgehogs, snakes, an alligator and other various animals packed into a store in a strip mall in the 3000 block of North Grandville Avenue.

The exotic animals were discovered by chance after the Muncie Building Commissioner caught wind of a foul odor.

Officials said the man was living in the shop and told authorities he wanted to open a pet store but didn’t have the money.

"When you’re caring for 710 pets by yourself, there is no way, especially the conditions of the building itself and having to worry about not having enough money for permits, there is no way this gentleman could care for any of these animals appropriately," Muncie Animal Care director Phil Peckinpaugh said.

Peckinpaugh said he believed the man wanted to sell mice wholesale, but didn't have a permit. Animal control officers found more than 620 mice and 29 rats inside the building.

Officers also found two pythons sharing the same 30-gallon tank. Peckinpaugh said typically one python requires a 40-gallon tank, as it can grow to as much as 20 feet in length.

The owner agreed to turn over the animals and shelter officials stepped in to care for them.

Muncie Animal Shelter leaders said the animals were a strain on their staff, supplies and building, but they were determined to give them a better home than they had before.

One rescued animal was already getting a lot of attention: a "gorgeous" parrot that people were already calling about as soon as the animal control office opened Thursday.

Officials said in addition the 710 animals found alive, another 78 were found dead. The store has since been declared inhabitable for animals and humans.

Delaware County authorities said the pet owner will not face criminal charges, but will likely be fined for not having permits for all of the animals.

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