Hundreds of animals seized in El Dorado County | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hundreds of animals seized in El Dorado County

Dawn Hodson
Mountain Democrat
Staff from El Dorado County Animal Services trailer horses remaining at the Shingle Springs property Monday. Almost 300 animals were removed in a case of alleged animal neglect.
Dawn Hodson / Mountain Democrat

El Dorado County’s two animal shelters will remain closed through today as a result of last week’s seizure of hundreds of animals after authorities received report of animal neglect at a Shingle Springs residence. The case is now part of a criminal investigation.

The removal of the animals began May 2 when El Dorado County Animal Services assisted the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office with an eviction due to a large number of animals believed to be kept on property off Lonesome Dove Drive.

Animal Services officers on the scene determined that a non-licensed animal kennel existed in addition to animal neglect.

A search warrant was obtained to remove the animals that numbered close to 300, including more than 100 dogs and numerous cats, birds, horses, pigeons, ducks, roosters, hens and goats.

On Monday, May 6, staff were back again for a fifth day of animal removal. This time it was to trailer the remaining horses and ponies as well as to capture cats and kittens scurrying around the property.

“This is one of the largest animal removal operations that I’m aware of in El Dorado County,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of El Dorado County Animal Services.

The animals are now being cared for at county animal services shelters in Diamond Springs and South Lake Tahoe and at other animal care facilities in the area, which is why the shelters are temporarily closed.

In addition to the animals found living on the Shingle Springs property, another 22 dead animals were reportedly found in freezers at the location.

Both the two-story home and a mobile home on the property have been deemed uninhabitable by the county after having been turned into kennels. El Dorado County Code Enforcement red tagged the home and trailer as substandard structures due to possible health or structural hazards.

The property is located in a bucolic part of the county amid rolling hills. Besides the two homes, scattered around the property were numerous tents that held animals, along with pens, sheds, corrals and other structures.

The tenants on the property included a 64-year-old woman, her wife and the woman’s elderly mother. In an interview with ABC10, she claimed they were running a sanctuary for unwanted animals and had dedicated their lives to caring for hundreds of animals, some of which came from other parts of the country.

She told ABC10 that she has rented the property for several years and has had previous visits from county code enforcement.

Some of the animals were found to be ill, especially the dogs. The woman said contrary to reports from the county, they took excellent care of the animals. She blamed their condition on circovirus, an infection that causes a wasting syndrome, which she accused the county of bringing onto the property when staff inspected it in 2014 due to prior complaints from neighbors.

She also said in the ABC10 interview that while the two-story home was uninhabitable because her landlord would not maintain it, the mobile home she lived in was “immaculate” despite keeping 50 to 60 dogs in it.

Brzezinski said it’s unclear what the couple will be charged with, if anything.

In the meantime the clean-up operation continued Monday with Brzezinski overseeing it as his staff loaded some of the remaining horses into a trailer.

“We appreciate the understanding and patience of our community members during our temporary shelter closures and limited service while we care for these animals in need,” he said. “We also want to thank the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, our local animal welfare partners and shelter volunteers who have assisted with this operation.”

Animal Services shelter staff will be limiting calls to emergencies during the next several days.