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Woman charged with using animal rescue nonprofit as front for selling drugs in Flagler County

If you would like to help the animals, you can donate unopened food to the FHS at 1 Shelter Drive in Palm Coast. The rescued animals will soon be available to adopt.
Credit: Flagler County Sheriff's Office
The Flagler County Sheriff's Office arrested 59-year-old Ruth Rupprecht on charges of animal cruelty and using a nonprofit organization as a front for selling drugs.

PALM COAST, Fla. — A Flagler County woman is facing felony animal cruelty charges, accused of using a nonprofit organization as a front for selling drugs.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office arrested 59-year-old Ruth Rupprecht Wednesday on drug and animal cruelty charges. She is a local "animal rescuer" and the owner of SAFFARI, Save A Furry Friend Animal Rescue, Inc., the sheriff's office said.

Rupprecht was the center of a five-month investigation, after a puppy was adopted from her organization in May and died a few days later, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. The adopter had contacted Rupprecht, who sent them a bottle of antibiotics in the mail, and shortly after, the puppy died of parvovirus, the release says.

Rupprecht told deputies the medication was provided to her in a "donation box" for her rescue business, according to the release. Detectives told her that it was illegal to dispense and mail antibiotics, and she assured them it wouldn't happen again.

Investigators determined that Rupprecht continued to sell "large quantities of medications" from her home, the release says. They also learned that the animal rescue was no longer registered with the Bureau of Compliance, Division of Consumer Services with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to the release, making it illegal to accept donations or contributions.

On Sept. 15, a search warrant was served at Rupprecht's home in Palm Coast, where investigators seized more than $20,000 cash, more than 100 prescription medications and 46 animals, the release says. The warrant was initially for the sale of prescription narcotics being sold from the residence.

The animals found included 17 dogs, 28 cats, a squirrel and a kitten that had died, according to the release. The animals were living in filthy conditions, and after Animal Control responded and seized the animals, a second kitten died, the release says.

Investigators also found multiple notes believed to be orders for various prescription medications, the release says. The medications included morphine and antibiotics from various pharmacies and doctors throughout the country, according to the release. Many were prescribed to people who did not live in Rupprecht's home whom she did not know, the release says.

The conditions of the animals found during the search led detectives to open another investigation for animal cruelty, resulting in a felony arrest warrant for new drug charges and animal cruelty charges on Oct. 5, the release says. Rupprecht was arrested a day later on the following charges:

  • Possession of Morphine
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Possession of a Legend Drug with Intent to Sell, Dispense, or Deliver
  • 10 Counts of Cruelty to Animals

She is being held at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility on a $50,000 bond, according to the release.

“Here’s a lady that uses innocent animals to support her drug-dealing by using them to purchase prescription medications and sell the drugs to human customers for personal use,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Hopefully, this woman never gets to own an animal again and gets to spend time behind bars for thinking she can sell drugs in Flagler County and neglect animals.” 

The animals are now being treated for medical issues by the Flagler Humane Society after it was discovered they were all ill, the release says. If you would like to help the animals, you can donate unopened food to the FHS at 1 Shelter Drive in Palm Coast. The rescued animals will be available to adopt in the future.