County tending sickly animals
Nevada County Animal Control is tending to the slew of cats, dogs and farm animals left by their owners while trying to piece together the chain of events that led to the animals’ neglect.
Barberio Lane resident Virginia Marlowe said her neighbors, Craig and Linda Whittingslow, asked about three weeks ago if she’d take care of their animals while they went to Washington state for a few days.
Marlowe told them she was too busy, and said the Whittingslows then made arrangements for their niece to care for the animals.
Marlowe said the niece, who had recently had a baby, called the Whittingslows in Washington and said she couldn’t keep up with the care of the throng of animals, which included more than 60 cats, two dogs, seven goats, four pigs, a burro and a flock of ducks and geese.
“When I realized that no one was going out there to take care of the animals, I knew I had to do something,” Marlowe said.
She said she found dogs and goats tied up in the sun without food or water and the decomposing bodies of kittens.
“This is not acceptable in our society,” Marlowe said. “We can’t allow animals to suffer like this.”
She said she and neighbors have been taking care of the animals over the last two weeks, expecting that the Whittingslows would return home any day.
“All I got was broken assurances,” Marlowe said. “They should have come home two weeks ago when they knew the person they designated to take care their animals reneged.”
Marlowe said Nevada County Animal Control officers came to the Whittingslows’ place Friday, posted an impoundment notice, but did nothing to help the animals.
Nevada County Agriculture Commissioner Paul Boch said he hadn’t hear about the situation until Friday afternoon, and that no complaints were filed with animal control.
Boch said he heard about the matter from county code enforcement and suspects that someone called to complain about the smell.
Neighbors should have informed animal control before the situation got out of hand, he said.
“As soon as we became aware of it, we were on it,” senior animal control officer Ron Earles said Tuesday. “… We’ll take charge of caring for the animals.”
Boch said animal control officers left food and water for the animals on Friday then went back Saturday and Monday to feed and water them again.
“It wasn’t as if we left the notice and never went back,” he said.
Boch said a veterinarian was sent to the Whittingslows’ Tuesday to evaluate the health of the animals. Some of the sick cats will have to be euthanized, but most of the other animals should survive, he said.
Boch said animal control must go through due process before seizing or impounding animals. After an impoundment notice is posted, he said owners have 48 hours to convince animal control that their animals should not be taken.
“We’d planned to go out (Tuesday) and seize the animals if we hadn’t heard from the owners,” he said.
Though the Whittingslows declined to return phone calls from The Union, Boch said he went to the property off Bitney Springs Road late Tuesday afternoon and met with Craig Whittingslow.
Boch said Whittingslow was cooperative and turned more than 45 cats over to animal control.
“His story was that his (niece) was supposed to take of the animals,” then someone else, but that fell through, too, Boch said.
Boch said Whittingslow was visibly upset and sorry that the animals had been neglected.
“When he showed up, he made sure water was running to all the animals,” Boch said. “It doesn’t appear that he intentionally neglected them.”
Prior to the Whittingslows leaving for Washington state, Boch said it appears that the animals had been well cared for, except for the burro, which was in bad shape.
“We’re still investigating, and there will be charges filed,” Boch said. “We’ll be talking to the district attorney about who will be charged with neglect.”
Boch said that when a pet or animal owner goes on vacation, they’re responsible for arranging for their animals’ care.
But once someone agrees to become the keeper of the animal while the owners are gone, they become responsible, he added.
“This is what can happen when you go on vacation,” Boch said. “The owner is ultimately responsible so if you leave your pets with someone, you have to make sure they’re responsible and check in with them from time to time when you’re gone that long.”
Boch said the Whittingslows will be cited for not having a kennel license since they had more than the three dogs and seven cats allowed.
The 45 cats turned over by the Whittingslows are now available for adoption at the Nevada County Animal Shelter.
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