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Hernando County, Florida -- Nearly 40 cats had to be euthanized Tuesday after they were found, along with other animals, in a U-Haul truck abandoned in the parking lot of a Spring Hill Publix.

Hernando Sheriff's deputies were called out to investigate and when they arrived, along with Pasco County Code Enforcement officials and Animal Services officers, they reported they could hear the animals "screaming" inside.

When they opened the door, 50 cats and three dogs were found inside the "extremely hot" truck and stored inside plastic containers similar to Tupperware containers.

The driver of the U-Haul was not around, but an investigation revealed it had been driven to Publix by 50-year-old Frances Terry Evans.

Pasco County officials say they have an ongoing case with Evans regarding animal hoarding. They believe she took the animals there and left them as she was court ordered to turn them over to Pasco County officials by Tuesday.

Hernando County Animal Services Managing Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Centonze and her staff worked late into the day to evaluate all 50 cats and determined they all had health conditions ranging from flea and ear mite infestations, ocular discharge and signs of respiratory infections. Most were not well socialized.

Unfortunately, due to the severity of the health problems and concerns of spreading infection to the rest of the shelter animals, 39 cats were humanely euthanized.

The dogs are currently in pens and will be evaluated Wednesday afternoon. One is a black Labrador Retriever, one a geriatric chocolate Labrador Retriever and the third appears to be a dark brown/black Chow mix.

Evans has been issued a citation for 53 counts of animal abandonment and is facing at total of $26,500 in fines. The State Attorney's Office has also issued a warrant for 53 counts of animal cruelty with a total bond of $26,500.

Pasco deputies took Evans into custody shortly before noon on Wednesday.

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