The 29 dogs jammed into two crates and abandoned at a Laguna Hills park last week were apparently left by a son desperate to rescue the creatures from a mother with a severe hoarding condition, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
But the ill-conceived rescue attempt went awry when the son’s car allegedly broke down, said authorities. That’s when he abandoned the dogs crammed on top of each other in two crates without food or water. Police have referred the case to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
An additional three dogs have been impounded after the ongoing investigation led authorities to the home of a Rancho Santa Margarita woman, where all the dogs lived up until last week.
Such large-scale cases of dog hoarding are rare in suburban communities such as Orange County, said police and animal control officials.
“I had thought I’d seen it all. I have been around a long time,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something like this surprises you.”
Earlier this week, witnesses watched a Toyota 4Runner stop at San Remo Park, where the driver left the dogs beneath a tree. The witnesses wrote down the license plate of the truck, leading investigators to a set of suspects. When the dogs’ plight made headlines, the man responsible for abandoning them contacted the sheriff’s department, said Lt. Tom Behrens.
“The story he gave investigators was that his mother lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, and she, for lack of a better term, is a hoarder, and part of what she collects is dogs,” Behrens said.
“He decided he would collect the dogs and try to take them to an animal shelter,” added Behrens. “The story he gave investigators is that he was in route when his car broke down, and he couldn’t take them.”
Authorities have not yet released the name of the suspect, and charges have not been filed. It will be up to prosecutors to decide if the case merits criminal charges, Behrens said.
In the mean time, all the dogs are in decent condition at the Orange County Animal Care Shelter, said Ryan Drabek director of OC Animal Care.
“They are pretty good, considering,” said Drabek. “There were some with pretty severely matted hair and a couple with minor abrasions, but we have not had to do significant medical treatment.”
Anyone wishing to help with the care and adoption of the dogs can call OC Animal Care at 949-249-5160.
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