When animal welfare officers were called to a home in California to investigate a suspicious smell, they had no idea what awaited them inside. Sadly, after they opened the door to the house, they uncovered an appalling case of animal abuse, with dozens of dogs left to die in their own filth.
It all began when a resident of Lake Mathews, California, began to notice an awful stench emanating from a nearby home. And, thanks to the mid-July heat, the smell of decay was getting worse as the days went by.
Clearly worried about what the source of the stench could be, the responsible neighbor reported the smell to authorities, who quickly came to investigate. Although they’d been warned about the ominous odor, perhaps nothing could have prepared animal welfare officers for what they were about to find.
In fact, Riverside County Animal Services’ senior public information specialist John Welsh said what they had discovered was like something out of a horror movie. “We’re talking a scene from Silence of the Lambs. It was the smell of death,” he told NBC Los Angeles.
What faced the officers were almost 40 starving, painfully thin pit bulls living in total squalor. Eleven of the emaciated dogs had sadly already died, thought to have succumbed to neglect and malnutrition. Another was so ill that it died soon after its rescue.
Officers believed the property’s owner was a former pit bull breeder. Indeed, the home was filled with makeshift dog kennels while “bedrooms were filled with piles of dried animal waste, puddles of urine and garbage,” a press release from Riverside County Animal Services stated.
The scenes were so gut-wrenching that even seasoned animal officers struggled to cope with what they were seeing. For instance, Will Luna, who’d served for more than a decade, had to hold back tears while attending to one sick dog. “No animal should be treated with such disregard. This was shameful,” he said.
Indeed, some of the poor animals were so weak that they could barely walk and had to be lifted out of the house. Many of them were understandably wary of their rescuers, while others were seemingly desperate for any attention they could get.
The 27 surviving dogs were transported to San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus. There, they received vital medical care and many were placed on fluids to help combat severe dehydration. The dogs were then taken into protective custody before loving homes could be found for them.
In the meantime, authorities got to work on finding the dogs’ owner. They suspected the person in question was one Carl Dixon, a man who had been jailed two months earlier for trafficking illegal drugs. It’s thought, then, that the 48-year-old left the dogs with no one to look after them.
This wasn’t, in fact, Dixon’s first encounter with animal-control officers. He had first come to their attention in 2013 when he spoke at a local county meeting to air his objections to legislation that aimed to regulate pit bull breeding.
Police were also keen to hear from Kim Delagos, Dixon’s spouse. Officers, unsure of her whereabouts, even appealed to the public for information. In an interview with The Dodo, Welsh said he believed that Delagos has “some level of responsibility in caring for the animals.”
Welsh also explained that Riverside County Animal Services was looking at bringing the case to the district attorney’s office. Officials had further tried to speak with Dixon from his cell, but he simply directed them to his legal representative.
With their nightmare over, then, the surviving dogs were able to receive the love and care they so desperately needed. In fact, the pooches were put on special diets, and, slowly but surely, they started putting meat on their bones.
Owing to the severity of their abuse and their lack of human interaction, however, some of the pit bulls will find it difficult to ever be adopted. Each dog, though, was given all of the help it needed to give it the best possible chance of finding a forever home.
Five of the pit bulls, for instance, were taken in by Wags and Walks, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. The organization specializes in taking dogs from shelters and house-training them until they’re suitable for adoption.
With its mission partly accomplished, Wags and Walks – which is hoping to take on more of the Riverside County pit bulls – is now looking for temporary foster homes for the dogs. It’s also attempting to raise money to cover the pooches’ supplies, vet bills and neutering costs.
“We are THRILLED to report these pitties are not only beautiful – but so sweet to both humans and dogs alike,” the organization’s GoFundMe page read. “They still have a road to recovery, but we will be with them every step of the way.”
Kind-hearted animal lovers have flocked to the page to show their support. In fact, within a matter of days the campaign had received so much attention that Wags and Walks was able to take in five more dogs.
Until they can be placed in their permanent homes, however, it’s important that these adorable pups become accustomed to humans. But thanks to the attention they’ve received at Riverside County Animal Services and Wags and Walks, many are now happy, healthy and ready to be loved.