A man recently charged with the deaths of a dozen dogs found inside a stolen U-Haul truck in Thousand Palms pleaded not guilty Wednesday to additional animal cruelty charges involving nine cats he allegedly left inside a Palm Springs storage facility unit, one of which died.
Douglas John Yates, 55, is slated to return to court May 9 for a felony settlement conference. He remains free on his own recognizance on the condition that he does not care for or have custody of any animals.
Yates, who is facing more than 20 felony animal cruelty counts in two separate cases, was arrested Feb. 15 after 12 dogs were allegedly found dead inside a stolen U-Haul truck somewhere on Varner Road.
Yates, who’s out of custody on $10,000 bail, was initially contacted during the stolen vehicle investigation, after which deputies located the deceased dogs, according to sheriff’s Deputy Armando Munoz. How the dogs died was not disclosed.
He rented the U-Haul from Blythe Freeway Towing on Jan. 15, but failed to return it, according to an arrest warrant declaration. The company reported the truck missing to police a week later, triggering a felony vehicle theft charge.
Last week, prosecutors also filed nine new animal cruelty counts and a single count of burglary against Yates for allegedly leaving nine cats inside a unit at StorAmerica Self Storage in Palm Springs. The felines were inside the unit for at least four days in June 2017 until it was forced open by another person renting a unit at the facility, the declaration states.
The cats were “confined in small cages, which were covered in feces and urine, within the locked and unventilated storage unit,” according to a police statement. The average temperature on the four days preceding the cats’ release from the storage unit was 102 degrees, according to the declaration.
In 2006, Yates pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty charges involving emaciated dogs and cats he kept at a La Quinta property.
According to a probation officer’s report in that case, Yates was working as a contractor at a La Quinta rental home in 2003, and kept two dogs there while the homeowners were away, initially with their permission.
Animal Control officers were first called to the home on a report of two abandoned canines, and found “that both dogs had no food or water and feces was scattered over the floor.” Months later, the homeowners called Animal Control, alleging that Yates had also brought seven cats into the home without permission, according to the report, which says the animals were diagnosed with “emaciation, dehydration and malnutrition” by a veterinarian.
La Quinta Animal Control Officer Steve Alexander stated in the report that “he has only observed one other dog is such a severe malnourished and neglected condition as the defendant’s two dogs.” The officer also recommended that Yates “be prohibited from owning or caring for animals.”
The report noted several other past occasions when Animal Control officers cited Yates for housing an excessive number of animals.