A New Hampshire man has been arrested after cops in Florida discovered 35 cats, two dogs, and an injured elderly woman in a stolen U-Haul. According to an affidavit from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Steven Martel, 35, was stopped by deputies. This was after they discovered the U-Haul he was driving had been reported stolen out of Newport, New Hampshire. According to the U-Haul regional manager, Martel had not paid for rent on the van since August 5th, reports WKRG 5.
Martel, his wife, and a 72-year-old woman were discovered living in the U-Haul. Also inside were two dogs and 35 cats who were “living on top of each other.” Deputies said they saw “up to eight” cats in some of the cages. The van stank strongly of urine. Sadly, the cats were crammed together so tightly that many had yellow-stained fur. They also had open sores “from being soaked in urine for an extensive period of time.”
The suspect claimed to be running an animal shelter
The affidavit said that Martel and his wife pretended they ran an animal shelter from their U-Haul. It was called “Veterans Paws For Hope.” But deputies found out they never got permits for this kind of business.
Pasco County Animal Control found the animals in the U-Haul. They told deputies that they required medical attention because of their living conditions. Later, animal control said that all the cats were healthy and under a 10-day hold. The hold was because they had been surrendered involuntarily. If law enforcement allows it, the animals can be returned to their owner at the end of the hold. If not, then the county will decide whether to put them up for adoption or give them to a rescue.
The 72-year-old woman was discovered with “large open sores” on her legs, according to the affidavit. She appeared confused and had trouble communicating, according to deputies. The emergency department at Morton Plant Northbay Hospital indicated that she most likely had a bone infection. This was possibly caused by the sores and accumulated additional problems as a result of living in the U-Haul. According to police, Martel was working as a caretaker for this individual.
Unfortunately, a similar incident happened in Texas. On August 30th, Montgomery County authorities discovered multiple neglected and injured dogs in the back of a stolen U-Haul truck. The people who were with the animals have been arrested. Some of the dogs are worth thousands of dollars.
The MCSO believes it all stems from a fraudulent business that Tiara Alsaid, 26, of Houston ran where she promised to transport animals across the country. According to MCSO, HPD has several cases against Alsaid where she is accused of stealing and reselling the pets rather than delivering them to their proper residences.