An Edna Valley woman accused of keeping more than 100 animals, a number of them dead, could face more than jail time â€” she may owe more than $114,000 to the county.
- PHOTO COURTESTY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFFâ€™S DEPT.
- CRAMPED IN THE KITCHEN: Nearly all of the 80-plus dogs discovered in the Walsh home were in need of care, according to animal services officials.
Â â€œVirtually all the animals were in need of care when they came to us,â€? says SLO County Animal Services Manager Erik Anderson, adding, â€œNot critical problems, however, general problems characterizing neglect, such as fecal and urine hair matting, ear infections, mouth disease, and eye infections.â€?
Â Walsh may have to pay the county for taking care of her animals. At $15 a day per animal, the bill so far for feeding and housing them adds up to more than $114,000.
Â â€œUnder California code, the cost of care becomes the responsibility of the animalsâ€™ owner when animals are seized due to cruelty and seized lawfully,â€? Anderson says. â€œIt would be our intent to recover costs. If we have the legal ability, we will do so.â€?
Â The shelter isnâ€™t the only one demanding payment from Walsh. At least six Central Coast veterinarians say she owes them money as well.
Â One local vet who has treated Cynthiaâ€™s animals for more than 15 years and who asked not to be named says Walsh has a history of not paying her bills. â€œCynthia ran up a tab of several thousand dollars at numerous clinics where I worked at a few yeas ago, and then she filed bankruptcy.â€?
Â Another vet, also asking for anonymity, says, â€œI am glad to see the situation resolving itself, because itâ€™s been a problem for too long. Cynthia loves her animals, though she has the traits of a pet hoarder.â€?
Â According to PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, pet hoarders are people who collect abnormally large amounts of animals that are deprived of basic physical and social needs. PETA spokesman Daniel Paden says hoarders claim the animals are healthy and happy, when to others they are obviously suffering.
â€œApproximately half of all pet hoarders have animal corpses stored in their refrigerators or freezers,â€? Paden says. â€œHoarding is considered cruelty to animals.â€?
Â Walshâ€™s attorney, Illan Funke-Bilu, cIaims his client is not a pet hoarder. â€œI donâ€™t like the label of pet hoarder,â€? he says. â€œCindy is a good person. I think she will prevail and get her dogs back.â€?
Â If convicted on all counts, Walsh could be sentenced to several years in state prison. But Paden says hoarders rarely spend time in jail, and instead are ordered to receive counseling, with bans or restrictions on animal ownership.