DANIA BEACH — — They are not your typical rescue dogs.
Eighteen dogs sitting in kennels at the Humane Society of Broward County are considered evidence in a criminal case.
Their owner, Gisela Tacao, founder of Gigi’s Rescue in Hialeah, was arrested April 17 on 53 counts of animal cruelty. She is accused of hoarding dozens of animals in a warehouse in Hialeah and in her duplex in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
Tacao, 40, will plead not guilty when she is arraigned on May 5, said her attorney, Christopher Pagan.
After Tacao’s arrest, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office turned to rescue groups for help placing the dogs found in her duplex, primarily older Chihuahuas along with miniature pinschers, rat terriers, one Lhasa Apso and a blind Brittany spaniel.
In all, 25 dogs were taken to the Humane Society shelter in Dania Beach.
One was in such bad shape it needed to be euthanized, said Mary Steffen, director of operations at the shelter.
Six others, including two puppies, have already been adopted.
Because the dogs are still evidence in the ongoing case, anyone who adopts one may be called upon later by the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s Office. The new owners would not be asked to testify, but might need to provide updated medical records, said Kathleen Hoague, Miami-Dade’s Chief Assistant State Attorney.
“These dogs are evidence,” Hoague said. “I need all their vet records. If they have to be euthanized or if they need surgery, I need to know about that. And I need to know where they end up. I need to keep track of all the dogs.”
Kimmie, a blind 10-year-old Chihuahua mix, made herself at home in her kennel on Monday.
A pink note on her cage tells of her background: “I didn’t have the chance to sleep in my own bed or cuddle with someone. I am blind and have some senior dog issues, but I’m hoping someone with a big heart and quiet home will adopt me and let me spend my golden years being loved.”
Next door sat Guadalupe, a rat terrier with soulful eyes. Mira the min pin and three Chihuahuas named Lenny, Maria and Gadget shared a nearby kennel.
“They came with no names,” Steffen said. So shelter staff gave each dog a name.
Spinny, a tan-and-white Chihuahua who is missing an eye, got his name because he spins round and round in his cage.
Many of the dogs are at least 10 years old and have eye, hip and knee issues, Steffen said.
“Some of them maybe have a year left,” she said.
The dogs will remain at the shelter “as long as it takes” to find them homes, Steffen said.
A Better Life Rescue in Pembroke Pines took in four dogs, including an emaciated Pomeranian now under the care of a veterinarian.
Founder Cira Leslie has found homes for all but one of the dogs she’s taken in, a hairless Chinese crested she named Spike.
“He’s a sweet little guy,” she said.
The dogs are available for adoption at the Humane Society of Broward County, 2070 Griffin Road, Dania Beach, 954-989-3977.
To adopt the Chinese crested, call A Better Life Rescue at 305-978-0059.