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Toledo Area Humane Society officials seized 22 dogs, a cat, and a bird Tuesday from a west Toledo trailer park after neighbors discovered the animals crowded inside a single-wide mobile home in what were described as deplorable conditions. One of the dogs was dead.
Cruelty investigators descended on the home in Twinwall Village Mobile Home Park on Tremainsville Road, between Laskey and Alexis roads, about 9 a.m. Tuesday, Humane Society Executive Director John Dinon said.
The dogs, mainly small breeds such as Chihuahuas but also a handful of larger dogs, had been let out of the home earlier in the morning by neighbors intent on rescuing them and were in the yard, trailer park manager Vickie Wisniewski said.
An African grey parrot was taken by a neighbor and picked up by Mr. Dinon later in the day.
Many of the animals were in bad physical shape, including one dog that had a serious eye injury and others with filthy and severely matted fur, Mr. Dinon said. One of the dogs, a poodle, had no fur except for balls of hair and feces covering its feet, Ms. Wisniewski said.
The inside of the trailer was covered in feces 4 inches deep, and some of the dogs had burrowed into the walls and fallen through the floor, she added.
"It was a nightmare," Ms. Wisniewski said. "They smelled so bad that a skunk I would rather hug than those dogs."
Ms. Wisniewski said the trailer belonged to Sheila Ortmann, a 50-something former dog groomer.
She said Ms. Ortmann did not live in the trailer and was rarely seen there.
In the past two weeks, neighbors had begun to complain about noise and a strong stench coming from the trailer, the manager said, prompting her to call the Humane Society.
"I knew something was going on," Ms. Wisniewski said.
The manager camped outside the trailer in her truck Monday night with her children because she was afraid the dogs might be removed before the Humane Society officers arrived, and she wanted to keep an eye on the home.
However, at about 2 a.m. Ms. Wisniewski said, she saw somebody go into the trailer and then several neighbors began removing the animals from inside, she recounted.
The creatures appeared to have been starving and there was no water or food inside the home, she said.
"They drank 10 buckets of water within 20 minutes. They ate a 50-pound bag of dog food that one of the neighbors brought down," Ms. Wisniewski said.
Heather Blankley, 29, and her partner, Jesse Bais, 31, who live across from Ms. Ortmann's trailer, said they knew there were dogs in the home but were stunned when they found out how many. They said a stench that smelled like a dead animal had been coming from the trailer for the past week.
"For days we've been smelling it," Ms. Blankley said.
The couple said they had met the owner, but only briefly, and she had offered to groom their two dogs.
"She seemed like she was a decent person, but after this it's like, wow, people can really put up a good front," Ms. Blankley said. "She acted like she really cared. Well, obviously she doesn't."
Ms. Ortmann could not be reached for comment.
It is not the first time officials have been called to investigate Ms. Ortmann, Mr. Dinon said. Humane Society officers first visited Ms. Ortmann last year after receiving complaints that she was keeping too many dogs.
They did not find anything worthy of criminal prosecution at the time, but advised her to clean up the premises, he said. Ms. Wisniewski accused Ms. Ortmann of hiding some of her dogs so that investigators wouldn't see how many she had.
The Lucas County dog warden had also investigated Ms. Ortmann and in January charged her on 21 counts of failing to give her dogs rabies vaccines, Warden Julie Lyle said. The warden's office also has been called a number of times to Ms. Ortmann's trailer in the past year on complaints about the animals inside, Ms. Lyle added.
Mr. Dinon said Tuesday that Humane Society investigators had made contact with Ms. Ortmann and planned to meet with her Wednesday. He said the organization probably will file animal cruelty charges against her.
In the meantime, the dogs will be cared for at the Humane Society shelter in Maumee pending the outcome of the case. "There's going to be lots of baths and haircuts for some of them and more serious medical treatments for the ones that have injuries," Mr. Dinon said.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.