Man lived with 600 animals in strip mall storefront

MUNCIE, Ind. — A man who turned a strip mall storefront into his home had to give up an alligator, two hedgehogs and more than 500 mice to authorities Wednesday.

Dan Goronzick, who agreed to surrender his pets without legal proceedings, also had a python, birds and rats on the property where he had aspired to open a business selling mice, said Superintendent Phil Peckinpaugh of the Muncie Animal Shelter.

However, a veterinarian who has been examining the animals said some aren't in the best of health because of the unsanitary conditions inside what had been retail space. All 632 animals were being taken to the Muncie shelter.

"It was very dirty, just a hodge-podge," Peckinpaugh said of the storefront. "There wasn't much organization to it at all."

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Among the animals seized:

• 541 mice, plus 78 that were dead

• 29 rats

• 15 guinea pigs

• 12 hamsters

• 7 lizards

• 6 small birds

• 5 corn snakes

• 4 turtles

• 3 hermit crabs

• 2 hedgehogs

• 1 foot-long alligator

• 1 frog and

• 1 parrot

"What are you doing?" the parrot, who called itself "Pretty Bird," asked rescuers as they cleared out the storefront.

Criminal charges are unlikely, Muncie police said.

But because Goronzick had an alligator, he violated a local ordinance banning certain exotic pets, Peckinpaugh said. Indiana law allows alligators up to 5 feet long without a permit.

State Department of Natural Resources officers came to inspect the four turtles but decided not to issue any citations.

Muncie Building Commissioner Craig Nichols discovered the animals Wednesday from the smell as he was inspecting an adjacent property where a boutique is planned.

Peckinpaugh acknowledged that he was overwhelmed upon entering the building Wednesday.

"I knew the rest of my afternoon was booked," he said. He planned to spend the evening doing research on the Internet. Among the topics: what to feed an alligator.


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