More than three dozen dogs and puppies, victims of abuse, are being cared for at an animal shelter in Scotts Valley.
>> How to help
The man believed to be responsible for the abuse was the focus of a sweep in the Santa Cruz Mountains Tuesday afternoon, but he wasn't captured. However, animal control officers found plenty of more evidence that turned their stomach.
Animal control officers spotted as many as 10 dogs still hiding on the property. They managed to capture one dog, a mixed breed, clearly timid and not used to being around humans. The dog had scars and skin disease. Officers had been tipped off that dog breeder Robert Burnett was on the property as of Tuesday night.
"The owner's not on scene. That's why we actually had the sheriff's department come out here with us to assist us for our safety. He's not come forth to talk to our agency yet," said Santa Cruz County Animal Control Officer Henry Brzezinski.
Officers have no leads as to the man's whereabouts at this time.
Animal control staff discovered yet another dog skull Tuesday, not far from where five others were found on a table during a search of the property on Saturday.
Officers set out humane traps and food to lure about eight or nine other dogs they've spotted. The dogs are not socialized and are avoiding human contact.
Tuesday's capture brings the total to 39 adult dogs and puppies taken to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. It's hoped they can be nursed back to health and adopted once a court transfers ownership to the animal control agency. However, the process will take time and effort.
"If possible, we're going to send them to foster homes and work with dog trainers and really try to get these animals some new homes. Of course, that will also depend on their health," said Tricia Geisreiter, an animal services coordinator.
Officials are building a case against the breeder. Charges of animal abuse could result in three years in prison and a $25,000 fine, but first they need to track down Robert Burnett.
"That's not an issue. The case speaks for itself basically on what we're finding on the property and the conditions of the animals," said Officer Brzezinski.
Late Tuesday afternoon, animal control officers were able to capture one more dog. They also made a grisly discovery of two partially severed legs from a dog. Animal control officers are hoping to take their case to the district attorney's office before the end of the week.
How to Help
Animal services is in need of blankets, sheets and towels, dog food and monetary donations, all of which are tax deductible. They can be brought to Santa Cruz County Animal Services at 27 Janis Way, Scotts Valley, CA 95066 or mailed there. Or to volunteer, call 454-7303 or go online at scanimalservices.us and fill out a volunteer application.