Some of the nearly 80 dogs seized from a Winchester property converted into an illegal kennel without running water and other necessities will be available for adoption within the next week or two, the Riverside County Department of Animal Services announced Tuesday.
“They’re now ready to start their new lives in loving homes or receive advanced behavior training with our partners,” department Director Julie Bank said.
A total of 76 canines, mostly pit bull mixes, were retrieved by court order on Aug. 11 at a parcel along Beeler Road, north of Simpson Road.
Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said animal control officers joined Department of Code Enforcement personnel and sheriff’s deputies in carrying out the enforcement order, which was tied to alleged trespassing violations by multiple parties staying at the location, one of whom was John Dunlap, the dogs’ caretaker.
Dunlap had set up what was tantamount to an unlicensed kennel, Welsh alleged.
“The dogs were being kept in cages, four or five to a pen,” he said on the day of the seizure. “There is zero plumbing, and from what I understand, the water was being trucked in.”
Some of the dogs were in good overall condition, while others weren’t.
“It’s evident they’ve been fed,” Welsh said. “But they’re out here in triple-digit heat, with no facilities, and a lot of waste build-up.”
About a half-dozen people, including Dunlap, were living at the site in trailers. The property owner resides in Orange County and did not grant the squatters permission to be on her vacant land, Welsh said.
He said that Dunlap had microchipped 50 of the canines, and some had identifying chips from the rescue organizations from which he had obtained them. Those nonprofits declined to take the dogs back, Welsh said.
Two dogs had to be humanely euthanized because of aggression, while three others were put down “due to severe health conditions,” the animal services spokesman said.
Many of the dogs were plagued by “fly strikes,” where flies infest their coats and ears, a condition that’s easily treatable.
The canines were taken to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, which remains closed to the public for lack of funding but continues to be an emergency repository that the county can open for events like the one in Winchester.
Welsh said an unspecified number of dogs will be sent to rescue organizations, while the balance will be placed at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms for adoption.
Dunlap did not seek to contest the county’s seizure, Welsh said.
For the next three weeks, dogs in the Coachella Valley shelter and the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley will be available to adopt at a flat rate of $20, not including license fees.
Information about adopting the Winchester dogs is available at rcdas.org/petharbor/secured_PetHarbAdoptSearch.html.