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The cost of hoarding animals

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An Edna Valley woman accused of keeping more than 100 animals, a number of them dead, could face more than jail time — she may owe more than $114,000 to the county.

 

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. - PHOTO COURTESTY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF€™S DEPT.
  • PHOTO COURTESTY OF SLO COUNTY SHERIFF’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.
#Cynthia Walsh, 56, has been charged with six counts of felony animal cruelty plus misdemeanor charges. An anonymous tip led authorities to her home on December 14 where they found 84 dogs, 26 birds, seven cats, four ducks, and a goat.

 “Virtually all the animals were in need of care when they came to us,� says SLO County Animal Services Manager Erik Anderson, adding, “Not critical problems, however, general problems characterizing neglect, such as fecal and urine hair matting, ear infections, mouth disease, and eye infections.�

 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.

 “Under California code, the cost of care becomes the responsibility of the animals’ owner when animals are seized due to cruelty and seized lawfully,� Anderson says. “It would be our intent to recover costs. If we have the legal ability, we will do so.�
 The shelter isn’t the only one demanding payment from Walsh. At least six Central Coast veterinarians say she owes them money as well.

 One local vet who has treated Cynthia’s animals for more than 15 years and who asked not to be named says Walsh has a history of not paying her bills. “Cynthia ran up a tab of several thousand dollars at numerous clinics where I worked at a few yeas ago, and then she filed bankruptcy.�

 Another vet, also asking for anonymity, says, “I am glad to see the situation resolving itself, because it’s been a problem for too long. Cynthia loves her animals, though she has the traits of a pet hoarder.�
 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.

“Approximately half of all pet hoarders have animal corpses stored in their refrigerators or freezers,� Paden says. “Hoarding is considered cruelty to animals.�

 Walsh’s attorney, Illan Funke-Bilu, cIaims his client is not a pet hoarder. “I don’t like the label of pet hoarder,� he says. “Cindy is a good person. I think she will prevail and get her dogs back.�
 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.

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