WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Police investigating a report of foul odors coming from a Maryland townhouse found 40 dead animals inside the home, whose occupant may have been involved in an animal rescue group, police said on Tuesday.
Officers also found four animals -- two cats, a gerbil and a bearded dragon lizard -- dehydrated and underweight but alive in the home after a property manager reported the odors, the Howard County Police Department said in a statement.
Animal control officers called to the scene in Columbia, Maryland, found 19 dead animals in a freezer, including birds, rabbits, a guinea pig and a hermit crab. Another 21 dead animals were found in cages or unrestrained in the house, including birds, cats, rabbits and a snake.
Neighbors said the house was occupied but no one had been there in over a week. The power and heat had been turned off, and it was unclear how long the animals had been unattended.
Police were trying to find the occupant of the house, and said investigators believed she may have been involved with a nonprofit animal rescue group that they did not identify.
(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)