Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Del Norte County Animal Control is now caring for 161 animals seized last Friday from a county home deemed substandard. Its owner was arrested and accused of willful cruelty to a child.

Armed with a search warrant Tuesday, Animal Control, assisted by the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, took 35 animals from inside a home at 155 Meaghan Lane, after 126 were seized from outside the home.

The owner, Kelly Lynch, 41, was arrested for willful cruelty to a child and booked into county jail.

Lynn Marshall, administrative secretary at the county Department of Agriculture/ Animal Control, said a community member called to report seeing two dead calves on the property.

“Our officer went out to check and was just appalled at the condition of the property and called law enforcement,” she said.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven tallied the animals at the home, which is tucked into the woods near the outer perimeter of Pelican Bay State Prison.

“They recovered a (live) calf, two dead calves, five goats, four guinea-pigs, 10 deceased rabbits, 60 live rabbits, 23 chicks, 12 chickens, 9 ducklings, and 12 geese,” Steven said. “Nobody was arrested at the home but the sheriff’s office took a case for animal cruelty.”

District Attorney Katherine Micks said she went out to the home after animal control officers described what they’d seen. A search warrant was issued for the home and more animals, dead and alive, were found inside the home. Steven described what officers found:

“There were pieces of rabbit ears in a gallon Ziploc bag, various bones and skeletons, three deceased guinea pigs, skulls and jawbones of animals, one deceased rabbit, five dogs, three puppies, and nine birds,” Steven said.

A child at the residence was taken into the care of county Child Protective Services and an elderly female was taken into the care of Adult Protective Services, Steven said.

“The property was posted as substandard by the Planning Department,” Steven added.

Micks said officers and investigators have all the information they need to prosecute and more charges may follow.

“Honestly, I feel like this is more common than people want to think; these situations where people have too many animals or can’t care for themselves and their animals,” Micks said. “Having been out there and seeing it myself, it’s tragic.”

A new home

Animal control Officer Micaela Curtis said the animals are getting much better care at the county shelter, but staff and volunteers are working to build more enclosures to better house the seized animals.

Animal control staff showed photos of the site, remarking the smell was almost unbearable. One photo showed stacks of wire rabbit cages, with a feces catch pan under only the bottom cage. Curtis explained only the animals in the top cages remained clean.

Most of the animals, including a cage full of tiny finches, seemed healthy, Curtis said, adding the animals had been cleaned up and waterfowl swimming basins have been regularly rinsed and changed.

One small duck, its wings and belly worn featherless, was having a seizure on the ground.

“He’ll have to be put down, probably later today,” Curtis said.

Photos of the ducks when they were taken showed their stringy feathers dirty and mussed like wet hair.

“They need to have dry feathers to stay warm,” Curtis said, noting all the ducks and geese were confined together in a small enclosure.

Other photos showed rusty wire cages, collapsing sheds, overflowing containers of feces and decomposing animal carcasses.

“People seem to think that farm animals don’t need shelter or regular care,” said Curtis, “but they do and there are laws in place that say so.”

Curtis said the extra dogs confiscated have left the shelter with only two open dog pens.

“We could really use some adoptions of some of our other dogs right now,” she said.

Marshall said none of the seized animals are currently available for adoption.

Lynch’s bail was set at $25,000.