Ruth Anne Rupprecht calls her animal-recue operation Save A Furry Friend Animal Rescue Inc., or Saffari. She established the organization in 2012, running it out of two homes in the Hammock–at 6 West 16th Road and 116 Sanchez Avenue.
Flagler County Sheriff’s detectives had searched a previous Rupprecht property housing Saffari animals in 2016 on suspicion of animal neglect, at 53 County Road 330. Detectives found 20 to 30 dogs and puppies being cared for in one building and at least 17 cats in a separate enclosure. The conditions didn’t rise to the level of cruelty or neglect, but Rupprecht faced numerous code enforcement fines from running a facility without a permit, and agreed to turn over 20 puppies, five dogs and nine cats to the Humane Society. She faced no charges. She was under no obligation to stop caring for animals.
Rupprecht, who several years ago was closely involved in fund-raising and other efforts on behalf of Teens in Flight, the celebrated Flagler non-profit, continued to do so.
Detectives and deputies were again at Rupprecht’s 6 West 16th Road address last month to serve a search warrant on suspicions of drug trafficking. But when they got there, the scene inside and outside the house was wretched. It teemed with cats and dogs, not all of them alive. It was strewn with garbage and saturated with unbearably foul odors. Deputies were retching at the door to the house. A judge was again sought out and asked to amend the search warrant so deputies could search for evidence of animal cruelty. The judge did.
The number of animals in the house made it difficult for detectives to walk without risk of hurting an animal. A white cat was in a laundry basket, dead. Another was unresponsive. Some 10 cats were skin and bones, their eyes and noses runny. Floors were littered with rotting cabbage, garbage, feces of varying consistencies, newspapers soaked either with urine or other less known substances. “There were several puddles of urine and what appeared to be vomit everywhere,” a detective reported. . cat appeared to be blind, its bones showing through its fur though it was an adult cat.
Rooms’ walls were heavily damaged and appeared to have been chewed on or scratched by puppies, often a sign of frustration or neglect. “The conditions of the home [were] so deplorable that detectives could not remain inside for long periods of time without needing fresh air,” a detective reported. Trash, clothing, boxes and furniture was stacked on the stairs between the first and second floor.
As the search proceeded, Rupprecht herself stood by her pick-up truck. She had a small tan dog in the vehicle, along with a baby squirrel and a newborn kitten. At one point she attempted to leave the animals in the vehicle without air conditioning–right in front of the cops alla round her. A detective told her the air conditioning should be turned on the animals taken out of the vehicle. The detective’s report notes that during her interactions with law enforcement, Rupprecht “did not express any concern with the conditions the animals were kept in.”
The majority of the 17 dogs removed from the property “appeared to be in good condition despite the unsanitary conditions they were housed in,” the detective’s report states. The 10 cats removed were a different story. One of them, in addition to the cat in the laundry basket, subsequently died. The others showed signs of eye infections, pus, hair loss, dehydration, starvation, bloated abdomens, swollen testicles.
All were examined by veterinarians, leading to 16 charges of animal cruelty. (In all, 46 animals were seized.) Rupprecht was booked at the Flagler County jail on those charges on Wednesday. Each is a first degree misdemeanor. But she also faces three third-degree felony counts of drug possession with intent to sell and possession of a controlled substance–the activity that had provoked the initial search in mid-September.
Rupprecht had already been charged on Sept. 20 with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. She was briefly booked at the county jail. The case came to light after she dispensed, without legal authority, prescription medication to a client who’d adopted a 7-week-old puppy from her. The puppy died days after it was adopted. Detectives subsequently determined that Rupprecht was allegedly using her animal rescue operation as a cover for selling drugs. The search conducted amid the reprehensible conditions also produced more than $20,000 cash and over 100 prescription medications. She had also qualified for a $1,000 federal grant under the Cares Act Relief Fund last year, the subsidies aimed at helping individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
She is being held on $50,000 bond at the Flagler County jail.
If you see animal abuse, call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911. Or you can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-8477 (TIPS). For more information about rescued animals, call the Flagler Humane Society at 386-445-1814 or email: [email protected]