A harrowing photo shows a toddler locked in a dog kennel and surrounded by hundreds of poorly-kept animals on a plot where a family allegedly grew marijuana and reared live animals to sell.
Police discovered the child during an animal rescue operation on Thursday in Henry County, Tennessee.
The child’s mum Heather Scarbough, 42, his stepdad, Thomas Jefferson Brown, 46, and his grandfather, Charles Brown, 62, were arrested and are facing multiple charges.
Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew told a press conference on Friday the tot was found among eight snakes, 56 dogs, 10 rabbits, 86 chickens, one gecko, four parakeets, three cats, one pheasant, three sugar gilders, and 531 mice, rats, and hamsters.
He said: “In the living room you’ve got a kid caged, you’ve got 8 snakes and you’ve got the snakes feed butted up against the child’s cage.
“Eight snakes in the same room, then mice running everywhere.
Mr Belew added that it was evident the child spent most of his life in the cage.
He added: “It was heartbreaking to see the conditions this child was living in. There was nothing for that baby in the entire house outside of the cage he was in.
“All his toys were in there with him. There were no other toys, no crib, no blankets for him.
“It appeared he spent most if not all his time in the cage, and the ammonia smell that came up when we lifted the cage and the bugs that were under it makes it appear as if he stayed in there a lot.”
Officers described the kitchen as “unliveable” after spotting “thousands of cockroaches and maggots. “
The entire property was in disarray with rotting food and rubbish scattered around the grounds.
Mr Belew added: “There was trash and food on top of the cage (where the child was held). “And you can tell when a child is starving and hungry, and he was starving.
“He needed to be out of there, and the animals did, too.”
The child is now in the custody of the Department of Child Services.
Police also found 127 marijuana plants and seventeen guns at the property.
The trio are facing charges of child abuse, cruelty to animals, manufacturing marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Police were called to the property after an anonymous call to authorities over possible animal cruelty.
After the animals were taken to veterinaries they were given to animal rescue centres for rehabilitation.