By Phil Benson
Black Canyon City, AZ (KPHO) -- An Arizona resident complaining of an overwhelming odor on Monday helped investigators uncover between 300 and 500 dead and dying domesticated rats in a large trailer in Black Canyon City.
The temperature inside the trailer in the 19200 block of East Abbott Street topped 100 degrees and the odor was overwhelming, according to Yavapai County Sheriff's Office animal control officers.
Officers said they could immediately smell urine, feces and the odor of dead animal carcasses, YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said.
The trailer had a pen inside the front section that contained several dead and dying rats and pens to the rear holding between 300 to 500 rats, most of which appeared dead or dying, D'Evelyn said.
Sheriff's authorities entered the main home, where they found several aquariums with newborn and adult rats. The animals appeared in good condition and had food and water, D'Evelyn said. No one was home at the time.
Deputies detained the caretaker, Jeffrey Wendorff, 28, after tracking him down at a nearby business.
Wendorff told investigators he had recently stopped looking after the rats and added, "As far as I know, they're probably all dead."
Investigators discovered Wendorff abandoned the rats after he had a falling out with the property owner over pay.
The pair were partners in a business that focused on breeding and selling rats. The arrangement also allowed Wendorff to live on the property rent free, YCSO said.
Following the pay dispute, Wendorff abandoned his duty as the primary caretaker, moved from the site, and abandoned the animals, D'Evelyn said.
The property owner is apparently only a part-time resident at the home, deputies said.
Wendorff was arrested and booked into the Camp Verde Detention Center on charges of cruel mistreatment of animals and cruel neglect/abandonment of an animal. He was later released on a promise to appear for court.
Sheriff's investigators said the investigation is focusing on who else might be involved in the incident.