140 sick, starving dogs rescued from mansion in California, police say 'the smell was unbearable'
Orange County police received an anonymous tip and found that the dogs were living in horrible conditions - 140 Shih Tzus and Maltese were covered in their own feces, urine and fleas
Animal control officers rescued over 140 dogs from a stinking, unsanitary multimillion-dollar California mansion on Thursday, authorities have said.
The stench was so foul that the animal control officers had to wear hazmat suits
At roughly 2:20 p.m, Orange County Police were anonymously tipped off about possible animal cruelty at the massive home within a gated community in the 3800 block of East Woodbine Road.
The animal rescue team was shocked to discover that over 140 sick and starving dogs, from puppies to seniors, were living in deplorable conditions in the house. It took them hours to carry out the animals one-by-one. The sheer number indicated that the house was being used as a hoarding or puppy mill for breeders.
The people living in the mansion - Jo and Edward Reitkopp - were cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty, according to reports. Although these could be later upgraded to felonies, officials say. Jo, the station reported, is said to be heavily involved in the Republican party politics, while Edward in an attorney.
Heartbreaking footage shows ragged little puppies being escorted out by the hazmat-clad rescuers. Being covered in feces, urine and fleas, the neglected animals had obvious health problems.
The neglected animals were mostly small breeds, including Shih Tzus and Maltese. The animal rescue team said the stench inside was unbearable and the two-story house was immediately red-tagged and declared uninhabitable.
"There was very little furniture inside of that residence and there were dog excrement and urine all over, inside, on the floor," Sgt Phil McMullen of the Orange Police Department was reported saying. "It appeared to be unlivable. The smell was unbearable for me. I'm surprised at how people can live in that situation."
It appears that the home was being used as a puppy mill. The Reitkopps' neighbor Lisa Paul said she bought a Shih Tzu puppy from the woman in 2010, but it died when by the time it turned four because of health problems. Paul was reported saying that she was shocked to find out the dogs had been living in filthy conditions.
"When I walked up and I saw it was this house, I just broke down crying," she had said.
While it is unclear what conditions the rescued dogs are in, they are receiving veterinary care and are expected to be put up for adoptions. "It is all hands on deck. We have staff here right now making sure that every single dog is properly cared for, comfortably housed, and then we're going to be monitoring them," Mike Kaviani from Orange County Animal Care told the station.
The OC Animal Care posted on social media: "OC Animal Care was called to assist Orange Police Department in transporting and accommodating over 140 dogs to our facility.
The dogs are currently receiving individualized treatment and the appropriate care needed. An investigation has been launched in regard to the incident, and we are cooperating with the Orange Police Department."
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