Several bit as 55 dogs seized from Northwest Indiana home
By Amy Lavalley Sun-Times Media January 11, 2012 6:10PM
A dog walks around the yard as the Porter County Sheriff's Department and Animal Control execute a search warrant and seize dozens of dogs from a property in West Chester Township, Ind. Wednesday January 11, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 11, 2012 6:26PM
Officials in Northwest Indiana Wednesday seized 55 dogs from a Chesterton woman who said while she knows she has too many dogs she’s not a bad person.
“I tried to do the right thing by just not giving them up or throwing them away,” Donna Montoya said through tears.
“I thought I was doing the right thing. I guess I wasn’t.”
Authorities arrived early Wednesday to start seizing the dogs, which they said are disease-ridden and neglected.
Porter County sheriff’s evidence technician Roger Bowles was bitten deeply on his left hand by one of the dogs and was taken by ambulance for medical attention.
Also bitten were Greg Nemeth, an animal control officer, and a volunteer with the Porter County Animal Shelter. Bowles and Nemeth required stitches and will receive antibiotics and shots against rabies; information on the shelter volunteer was not immediately available.
Montoya faces multiple counts of cruelty to animals, and could face more charges because of the dog bites. Property owner George Mitchell, who also lives at the home and is reportedly Montoya’s boyfriend, also could face charges, authorities said.
Animal control officials came to the house Nov. 18 after a complaint from neighbors about dog waste leaking into the water table.
On that visit, as well as on a follow-up visit on Jan. 4, officers observed the dogs — there were 30 in the yard and Montoya said another 20 were in the home — drinking water contaminated with urine and feces, and fighting with one another. There was no food or potable water, and some of the dogs had scars.
Last week Montoya surrendered seven puppies, which were infested with fleas and found to be carrying the lethal canine parvovirus. Montoya has admitted the animals were not vaccinated — which is illegal.
The dogs were taken to several locations, though officials are not disclosing where.
Dogs barked and ran in the yard while sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers used a loop, and sometimes a dirty white sheet, to corral them into trucks. Occasionally, the odor of dog feces wafted in the air.
Officers eventually made their way into the home, wearing masks coated with Vicks VapoRub to cut the smell. Before he was bitten, Bowles said he made it into the first room of the two-story house and said the smell “will take your breath away.”
Bowles said he has never seen a case of animal hoarding of this magnitude in his 12 years with the sheriff’s department.
Wearing a bright pink sweatshirt and shorts, Montoya, 50, tried to move the dogs along. Mitchell used a rake to help.
“Come on, Bessie. Come on, Curly. Come on, Davis. Come on, Georgia,” Montoya called to the dogs.
Montoya said she’s lived at the residence for six years, and Mitchell has lived there since 1986. The dogs are Rottweiler/chow/Labrador retriever mixes, she said, adding she worked with the previous staff at the shelter to try to control their numbers.
She would surrender the puppies and, when there was room, the shelter would take three dogs at time. The shelter also was working with Montoya on having the animals spayed and neutered, though that stopped about a year ago.
“I bathe them regularly and they eat well, better than we do,” she said, adding she goes through 150 pounds of dog food a day.
She knows she has too many dogs.
“I’d like to keep my five original ones, and there’s a couple I bottle fed as babies,” named Elmo and Rudy, she said, adding she could feed them and provide proper veterinary care. “I don’t know what’s going on. This is what I woke up to. I have no idea what I’ll be charged with or if I’ll get them back.”