70 dogs seized from ‘uninhabitable’ Occidental home
Friday, August 10th, 2012 | Posted by PD staff | no responses
By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County Animal Shelter officers have seized more than 70 dogs from an Occidental house that was immediately red-tagged as being uninhabitable.
It was unclear Thursday whether the homeowner, Nola Beecher, 66, who neighbors said had been collecting dogs for years, will face charges.
“It is a terrible situation, primarily for those animals,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo. “It is my understanding the conditions are pretty awful. It is sad and unfortunate what was found.”
Carrillo said animal control, the District Attorney’s Office and the county’s permit management and resources department were involved in the investigation.
Animal control and sheriff’s deputies went to the Highland Road home Wednesday, acting on a complaint that was filed Tuesday, according to county officials.
They confirmed reports from neighbors that more than 70 dogs and a few cats were taken away.
Noah Beecher of Santa Rosa, Nola Beecher’s son, said it was part of his mother’s dog rescue operations, “but potentially got out of her management. She has an absolute love for dogs and it is nothing else than that.”
“She has been doing dog rescue for years now, she saves many dogs and adopts them out,” he said. “She is solicited by other rescues to take dogs. This is not an animal abuse case.”
Neighbors describe the Beecher house as being hidden behind eight-foot fences. They said the property is the source of the constant noise of barking dogs and a sometimes overwhelming smell of feces.
“It was the chronic barking and occasionally this whiff of what is going on, the smell of fecal material,” said Rita Pampanin of Twisp, Wash., who is returning to the family home next to Beecher’s to retire. “I would often walk down the road and this unfortunate neighbor of ours barricaded herself, you could not peek in.”
Pampanin said she filed a written complaint about the noise and smell with county animal control officials last week.
Don Anderson, who lives next to the Beecher house, said he and others have been complaining about the problem of noise and the odor for years without result.
“We are the immediate neighbor who has complained and complained about the unbelievable stench — like a pig farm,” Anderson said.
Amy Cooper, the county’s animal control director, would not disclose the location of the seizure, the conditions of the animals, the reason for the seizure or the identity of the person or people from whom they were taken. She said she was unable to provide information because it was an “open investigation.”
“We have a strict animal control policy to not discuss current investigations,” Cooper said. “We have received word from the District Attorney’s Office that there is no comment.”
The District Attorney’s Office said the animals were confiscated after a complaint received Tuesday led shelter officials to the property. They would not describe the nature of the complaint.
The animals were taken to the animal shelter in Santa Rosa, where volunteers were bathing them Thursday, the first step in what appeared to be a long process of caring for them.
Each animal will be examined for signs of neglect or abuse, said Bill Brockley, chief deputy district attorney.
After the shelter reports on the animals’ well being, prosecutors will determine whether the matter warrants criminal animal abuse charges and ordinance violations, Brockley said.
To provide room at the Santa Rosa shelter, the Sonoma County Humane Society and the Rohnert Park and Healdsburg shelters were taking other dogs in the county shelter that are up for adoption.
“I don’t recall this large of an impound in a long time,” said Don Malone, operations manager of the Sonoma County Humane Society. “We have room for 55 dogs in our shelter … that is over our capacity.”