Dozens of dogs and cats found in filth

Animals taken from 2 Harford homes

May 13, 2006|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

Authorities in Harford County said they will pursue animal cruelty charges against a Whiteford woman after finding about 120 dogs and cats, at least 40 of them dead, in squalid conditions yesterday in two houses she owns.

Dozens of animals were found roaming amid carcasses and feces in the two properties in the 2900 block of Whiteford Road, which officials believe were exclusively homes to the pets. Robert B. Thomas, a spokesman with the Harford sheriff's office, said there was evidence in the one-story rancher that the dogs had attempted to claw through the walls.

"There's feces well over a foot high in many areas - there's live dogs walking on dead dogs," Thomas said, as dogs yelped in the background. "This effort to rescue these dogs and remove the deceased animals will go on for hours."

The woman, a 59-year-old whose name was not released, had a heart attack as officials served the search warrant yesterday and was transported to a local hospital.

Officials obtained the warrant after a complaint Thursday led to the discovery of 11 dogs in a padlocked garage adjoining the rancher. The floor was covered in two inches of urine and feces, according to a police report that characterized the smell as "overpowering."

Five animal control officers, as well as a hazardous materials response team, fire and rescue, and health officials, were summoned to the scene yesterday and treated the dogs before moving into the second property at about 7 p.m.

There, in a two-story brick-veneer home, officials found cats and dogs, some of which were dead. There were no signs of residence in either property, and it was believed she had purchased both properties within the past two years as shelters for the animals, Thomas said.

The animals, many of which Thomas said required immediate medical attention, were taken to a nearby humane society to be evaluated and treated. The electricity to the homes was shut off because of fear that methane from the feces could ignite.

The woman became upset as officers entered the homes and was taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center after complaining of chest pains, said Lt. James Eyler of the sheriff's office.

"If and when she is released, our inclination is to arrest and charge her with animal cruelty for each and every animal removed from both houses," Eyler said.

According to a police report, a 17-year-old who visited the home Thursday noticed a foul odor from the outside and called authorities. There were numerous flies on the inside of the windows, which were covered up, and dogs could be heard barking.

An animal control officer arrived and determined the conditions were a threat to the health and safety of the animals. But the woman, who initially said she had only five dogs, denied access to the properties.

According to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, up to 250,000 animals are the victims of hoarding each year, with cats the most common type because they are easy to conceal.

Justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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