Former Phoenix police officer faces 80 counts of animal cruelty

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A retired Phoenix police officer is facing 80 counts of animal cruelty.
Maricopa County sheriff's officials said Andrea Mikkel, 62, was arrested Thursday after being detained last month for allegedly hoarding animals at her home near Interstate 17 and the Carefree Highway.

Complaints from neighbors led deputies to Mikkel's property where they reported finding more than 100 animals. They said many of the animals appeared to be underweight and in distress.

Detectives found animal feces covering virtually every inch of the inside of the house. They said spider webs covered most of the walls and entryways. Cages holding pigeons, quail, roosters and rabbits were scattered throughout the home.

Detectives said many of the animals had open sores or medical issues that had not been addressed and no food or water had been provided.

Larger animals, including dogs, horses, zebras, llamas, alpacas, turkeys, goats, pigs, steers and sheep, were housed in the yard without food or clean water. Most had medical issues.

Veterinarians determined that 57 animals required medical attention and needed to be seized.

Mikkel reportedly admitted she had a problem, but she refused to place the animals in better homes or with a wildlife sanctuary, according to sheriff's officials.

Mikkel was hospitalized briefly after officials said she attempted suicide while being questioned by deputies in January. She swallowed a tab from a soda can and it became lodged in her throat.

Since serving the search warrant on Jan. 5, detectives have been visiting her property on a regular basis to ensure the remaining animals were being cared for, officials said. Detectives also attempted to find an expert who could properly evaluate the zebras' living and medical conditions.

During this time, officials said Mikkel started secretly sending some of the animals to friends. The zebras are in the care of a friend in Cave Creek. That person has been cooperating with the sheriff's office and an Arizona Game and Fish expert on zebras was finally able to examine the pair.

While at the residence Thursday afternoon, detectives, along with veterinarians, examined the remaining animals on the property and determined 14 more were in poor health. Deputies seized a longhorn steer, one alpaca, one llama, four sheep, four goats, two pigs and one chicken.

Mikkel's attorney, Marc Victor, said Mikkel would have turned herself in if she had been summoned on charges and said there was no need to make her arrest so public.

"This, in my opinion, was nothing but grandstanding, showboating by Sheriff Joe Arpaio," Victor said. "I think it's an outrage. I think it violates due process."

But Arpaio said Thursday that he and his staff "don't negotiate with defense attorneys."

The sheriff said Mikkel could be sentenced to a year in prison for each of the 80 misdmeanor counts. He said additional charges are still possible.

When asked if he thought that punishment would be fair, Arpaio said, "I'm just telling you what the law is. I'm not saying I'm recommending it. Our job is to arrest. It's up to prosecutors to decide, not me."

Victor said it's Mikkel's arrest that has put the animals at risk.

"To go out to my client's property today, where she was actually caring for her animals, and arrest her and create a crisis for her animals, who are now, I'm told by her neighbors, running around uncared for," he said.

A judge told Mikkel at her initial court appearance Thursday night that she has seven days to find homes for the animals remaining on her property and that she cannot currently take on new animals.