A trial involving an Edna Valley woman charged with six counts of felony animal cruelty plus misdemeanor charges moved into its second week, and it's the defense's turn to allege animal neglect.
Originally, an anonymous tip led officers from Animal Services to Cynthia Walsh's home on Dec. 14, 2005, where they reportedly found 84 dogs, 26 birds, seven cats, four ducks, and a goat. The prosecution claims that the animals suffered needlessly in deplorable conditions.
"Virtually all the animals were in need of care when they came to us," SLO County Animal Services Manager Erik Anderson said in a March interview. "[They were] not critical problems, however, general problems characterizing neglect, such as fecal and urine hair matting, ear infections, mouth disease, and eye infections."
Walsh's attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, argued on Dec. 12 of this year that the animals received far worse care while in the hands of Animal Services.
"Testimony will show that her animals were better off with Cynthia Walsh taking care of them than they were with Animal Services," Funke-Bilu said.
Dr. Liz Bracken, a veterinarian who examined 83 of Walsh's animals in March, stated repeatedly during her testimony on Dec. 11 that the condition of many of Walsh's pets deteriorated during their stay with County Animal Services. One animal died, while another lost an eye due to alleged neglect while in the county's care, she said.
Bracken also accused Animal Service's Anderson of moonlighting at Coast Veterinarian Clinic, allegedly the only veterinarian clinic that the county contracts with for outside medical treatment.
Casey Ponting, a receptionist at Coast Veterinarian Clinic, said in a later interview that Anderson occasionally works at the clinic on Saturdays.
"I know that many local veterinarians called to offer free care to the animals," Bracken testified at the trial. "He sent all the animals to Coast. Would it surprise you to know Anderson works for Coast Veterinarian Clinic?"
Anderson told New Times that he could not respond to allegations during the trial.
Walsh wiped tears from her cheeks as Bracken spoke of injuries one of Walsh's dogs received while being seized with the assistance of a catchpole.
A shelter worker, Mary Paulson, also testified that Walsh's animals were kept in questionable conditions at the shelter.
"They were not receiving proper care and exercise, so they were very stressed, and many of her animals suffered from diarrhea," Paulson contended.
Walsh was expected to take the stand sometime later the week of Dec. 11. She potentially faces up to six years and four months in state prison.