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Dec 29, 2023

Polk County Sheriff's Office investigating animal neglect hoarder case in southwest Polk

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

On Thursday, December 28, 2023, the Polk County Sheriff's Office responded to a home on Pope Lane off of Bethlehem Road in unincorporated southwest Polk County regarding a well-being check of an elderly woman. When deputies arrived on-scene they detected a strong odor of ammonia around and inside the home, and once inside, observed feces throughout the house and over 30 cats inside. The deputies requested the PCSO Animal Cruelty Investigations Unit to respond.

Detectives responded to the scene, and upon arrival made contact with the suspect, 57-year-old Sharon Cochran. Detectives observed that the floor of the residence was covered with feces, the air was very difficult to breathe, and multiple cats were running throughout the residence. Piles of trash and garbage were located throughout the residence, and several cats appeared to be underweight and in need of proper care. One dog was also located in a bedroom of the residence that was also breathing the poor-quality air. Polk County Fire Rescue responded to the residence and recorded an ammonia reading inside the residence of 15 ppm using an ammonia meter; 0 ppm is normal breathing air. The air inside the residence was not fit for humans or animals to be breathing or living in for any extended period of time. 

Detectives and Animal Control representatives removed one dog and 35 cats from within the house. Cat feces and roaches were in every room of the residence. There were no litter boxes found. The air conditioning was non-operational, preventing a sufficient supply of air from circulating in the house. Cochran was taken into custody and charged with 36 counts of animal neglect (M1).

Cochran is the sole caregiver of an 82-year-old woman with limited mobility; she was also charged with one count neglect of an elderly person (F3). The victim was relocated to family members.

This is the second case in a week where we have found a woman who, thinking she is helping, ended up hoarding animals. The victim is now in the care of other family members, and the animals are being examined by our Animal Control veterinary staff. It is our hope they will be rehabilitated and able to be adopted out to loving homes.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff