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THIS AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD was one of 15 seized by Animal Control Tuesday at a property in Fair Play where property owners were keeping more than 50 dogs and between 20 and 30 horses. Animal Control officers said many of the animals were emaciated. See story "Dogs, horses seized ..." Photo by Don Berry

May 12, 2005- Dogs, horses seized, neglect is suspected
By JESSI MARTIN, Staff writer

FAIR PLAY - Imagine the noise of more than 50 Australian shepherds, and you can imagine the number of complaints the El Dorado County Office of Animal Control has received from neighbors on Mt. Aukum Road near Gray's Corner.

In an operation that took all day Tuesday with the help of Animal Control officers from Sacramento City, Sacramento County and Placer County, local officers from El Dorado County seized 15 dogs and six horses they suspect are the victims of neglect from the owners of a 20-acre property in Fair Play.

Preliminary investigations revealed that many of the animals were emaciated, said Henry Brzezinski, county chief Animal Control officer.

"We've had a rash of recent complaints about this property," said Lt. Bonnie Koski of Animal Control.

The complaints, Koski said, were not enough to prompt the seizure; however, a person who had recently been on the property came forward and reported on the living conditions of the animals, which allowed Animal Control to obtain a search warrant, Koski said.

"A lot of the dogs were standing in mud or water almost a foot deep in their kennels," said officer Kelly Reason, who assisted with the seizure.

While many of the 20 to 30 horses on the property were allowed to graze in large fenced-in areas, the majority of the horses that were seized were kept behind the home out of view from the street in pens with similarly muddy conditions, according to Animal Control reports.

The animals that were not taken during Tuesday's seizure were impounded on the property, Koski said.

"We are concerned for all of the animals, but unfortunately there isn't a suitable or secure location to house the rest of the animals in the county at this time," Brzezinski said. "We will continue to monitor the condition of the remaining animals on the owner's property and determine if further steps need to be taken to ensure their health and safety."

Animal Control has not yet released the names of the animal's owners.

A neighbor across the street from the property, Anthony Liguori, 38, said he was unable to comment on the care the animals were receiving.

"Animal Control arrived a couple of hours after a torrential downpour. They'd better be right," Liguori said of the seizure. "But I haven't seen the animals' conditions except from across the street."

When asked to comment about the noise levels across the street, Liguori said, "When you move up to the country next to horses and cattle, not only do you get to see them, but you get to smell them. Likewise, when you move next to a kennel, you get to hear them. Welcome to the country. If you don't like it, move back to where you do like it."

The animals, with the exception of the grazing horses, were kept near the house, which is set back a considerable distance from the road.

A veterinarian along with two El Dorado County sheriff's deputies accompanied Animal Control in serving the search warrant.

Animal Control will be shaving some of the seized dogs to document their condition with pictures, Brzezinski said.

"They are long-haired dogs, and unless you put your hand on them, you can't tell they are emaciated," Brzezinski said.

Possible charges the owners may face include permitting animals to go without care, crimes against animals, and operating a commercial kennel without a license.

According to an El Dorado County ordinance, if property owners have five or more domesticated dogs at least 4 months old that are kept or maintained for sale, barter or hire, the facility is considered a commercial kennel, which requires a license to operate.

The owners had advertised puppies for sale in the past, according to Animal Control reports.

The dogs were still legally the property of the owners and were not up for adoption as of press time Wednesday.

Read about the progress of the Pupppy Mill Rescuees

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