POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - In some cities and counties, the lack of laws governing pet limits makes prosecuting animal hoarders difficult.
Broward County has removed more than ten dozen cats from Cynthia Cobb's possession in the past two years. She lives in Pompano Beach, which places a limit on the number of pets a resident can have.
Pet owners like Cobb are sometimes unable to let go of their pets, keeping them caged in cramped and contaminated conditions. In October, police charged her with animal cruelty.
"If I can't come up with a way to keep this from happening again, then I have to remove you from society and place you somewhere where you will not have access to cats," Broward Circuit Court Judge John Fry told Cobb during a hearing last month.
Cobb explained that she knows she has a problem, and was able to avoid being arrested by showing up to court.
"I just can't stand to see them go to the animal shelter and be put to sleep," she said. "I feel like, I guess it's like an alcoholic. You know, you can't take one drink because it's going to lead to fifty drinks."
Cobb's neighbors -- frustrated from living next door to an illegal zoo -- also showed up to the hearing.
"The last house they were in, there were 80 cats removed," said Paul Noiva. "They're doing this over and over because they don't face consequences."
Unlike Pompano Beach, most cities in South Florida don't have pet limit laws. Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic said sometimes elected officials don't need to set a limit.
"The problem is usually when you have hoarding, they are in unsanitary conditions, there's probably some abuse going on, and they are probably a public nuisance," she said.
Some of the cities that don't have laws limiting pet ownership include Hollywood, Parkland, Lauderhill, Tamarac, Weston, and Southwest Ranches.
Miami-Dade County differs from Broward County in that it sets the pet limits its residents follow. While people living in Miami-Dade can have as many cats as they want, they can only have four dogs.
Animal hoarding is a relatively new issue, and some cities' and county's laws haven't yet caught up with its complications. Many hoarders also need psychological help for their addiction.
Cobb agreed to a deal that will allow her to stay out of jail. She must get psychiatric help, pay fines, and never own an animal in Pompano Beach again.
"I have a problem and I don't mind getting help for that," she said.
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