The legacy of the Birdman complex in Tampa Bay reached its final turning point before his death earlier this month and threatened to face charges of animal cruelty and neglect.
Abandoned by friends and family, Ralph Heath Jr. Spent the last few years in a barn on Stark Road in Largo with hundreds of birds, turtles and other animals.
Heath was 76 years old on October 2 when he died of a heart attack at Largo Medical Center. There he was recovering from a brown recluse bite. On an anonymous complaint, Pinellas County Animal Welfare Officers were brought to the camp when Heath was hospitalized.
They found hundreds of animals in a terrifying setting, a “gruesome” version of the Heath Sancost seabird sanctuary, founded in 1971.
Heath once ran the nation’s largest non-profit wildlife hospital and wildlife sanctuary on three acres of beaches on the Indian coast. The collapse of his life was overturned by his previous accusations of fame, poor financial management, neglect and brutality.
The shocking barn revelation sparked a wave of emergency lawsuits from Pinellas County Assistant Attorney Jeff Klein, who filed a lawsuit in county and county courts to expedite the animal seizure.
However, in a written statement, Suarez said he “was unable to handle the situation even before he was admitted to the emergency room.” The court records showed that the stench was unbearable. The hot barn was not ventilated, and the floors and submerged cells were covered in “mud and grime.”
The cobweb covers animal cages. The ducks, covered with their blankets, are blind. Two days later, officials from the Fish and Wildlife Commission contacted Heath at the hospital and said the animal needed to be moved, according to the animal agency’s report.
Commercial inspectors have declared Largo’s warehouse unfit for habitation. Animal support staff are looking for charities that are willing to accept live animals. Suarez did not respond to three requests for comment from the Tampa Bay Times last week by phone and on social media.
He told the authorities that he had worked regularly for Heath for 20 years and had been a paid employee for the past six months.