Sixteen golden retrievers liberated last week from a feces, mold and fly-infested Cloverdale home are in need of further rescue as the estimate for their medical care tops $15,000.
The cash-strapped city of Cloverdale is ultimately responsible for the bill after seizing the dogs and arresting their owner, landscaper and would-be breeder Brooke Hunter Brownback, police said.
Brownback signed ownership of the dogs over to the city as she headed to jail to face animal cruelty and child endangerment charges, police said.
But with the city already trimming back, it's not clear the money is available, said Colleen Combs, who is caring for the dogs at her family-owned King's Kastle dog care facility.
"The finances right now are unbelievable to get them all spayed, neutered, vaccinated, cleaned up and fed so they can be adopted into homes," Combs said.
Members of the community have begun stepping forward to help ensure the puppies and mature adults get the care they need. Local businesses also are collecting funds, and folks have been dropping off food donations toward the 40 pounds or so the dogs consume each day, she said.
Combs said her costs for grooming, board, testing, assessment and extra staffing already have hit about $6,000.
"The city is doing the best they can to assist us...but like most cities, there's no money," she said.
Community Services Officer Teresa McDonald is unapologetic about removing the retrievers from the West Second Street home, which reeked from the commingled odors of urine, feces, rotting food, mold and a decomposing rat in the living room.
"It wasn't habitable for the dogs or the homeowner," she said.
The case unfolded March 25 when McDonald, who doubles as the city's animal control officer, was called to Brownback's home by someone who had seen seven of her dogs running loose.
McDonald and a police sergeant discovered the appalling conditions in which Brownback, her 17-year-old son and 16 dogs — three of them pregnant — had been living.
"We found disarray," McDonald said, admitting to understatement.
The dogs had their run of the house and yard, with an open door in between, McDonald said. Mud, feces, rotting food, dirty dishes and garbage were everywhere, and the dogs themselves were caked in feces, mud and fleas.
Wet clothing and blankets were strewn around the moldy floor, which had buckled and was disintegrating in some places.
Ten dogs were in travel kennels or cages, sometimes two to an enclosure, without food or water, McDonald said. Several were non-responsive or lethargic.
A 4-foot-high pile of garbage and dog feces was contained in a 10-by-10 dog run, while the yard itself was filled with broken furniture and appliances, pooled muddy water, garbage and dog feces. The dogs had broken through their gate to the street, McDonald said.
McDonald had been to the house two years earlier, when Brownback had 18 unlicensed dogs and was arrested for running an unlicensed kennel. She didn't get inside the house until last week.
"I wad dodging holes in the floor," she said.
Brownback was arrested for suspected child endangerment and 16 counts of animal cruelty. She is being held at the Sonoma County Jail with bail of $25,000, police said, and has been referred for mental health evaluation.