SALISBURY, N.C. – A Rowan County woman was arrested on animal cruelty charges after deputies discovered multiple dead cats inside her home, as well as several other animals living in deplorable conditions.

According to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, deputies began an investigation of possible animal cruelty at a home in the 900 block of Lincolnton Road on May 8 after receiving several reports of possible cruelty or neglect at the address.

Deputies and Animal Control officers arrived at the home on Wednesday, May 10, with a search warrant and to seize any and all animals at the address. When officials arrived, they only made it to the sidewalk in front of the home before encountering a pungent odor of urine, feces, and the smell of decaying animals.

In the backyard, deputies found five dogs, including one dog with portions of its fur missing and a strong odor coming from its body. Police also found several empty animal cages with no food and no fresh water for the dogs to access.

Deputies were able to see inside the home and discovered what looked like animal feces covering the floors. One deputy left the home to obtain a search warrant of the home, fearful that there could be other animals at risk or dead in the home. Before the warrant was obtained, the homeowner, identified as Barbara Hart, allowed police inside.

Once inside the home, deputies located feces all over the residence, with some places being several inches thick, preventing doors from opening completely. Animal Control officers located three dead and decaying cats behind a couch inside the home, as well as a cat skull underneath a bed.

Hart told officials that the animals belonged to her and she agreed to an interview with deputies at the sheriff’s office. Authorities obtained nine warrants against Hart for her arrest on animal cruelty charges. She was placed in the Rowan County Detention Center under a $1,500 bond.