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Couple accused of hoarding Yorkies plead guilty to animal neglect

Couple accused of hoarding Yorkies plead guilty to animal neglect
Investigators found several dozen Yorkie mixes in the Poway home. The dogs’ coats were severely matted and tangled in feces, and many were suffering from ear infections, fleas and hair loss. (Courtesy of the San Diego Humane Society)

A Poway couple accused of hoarding roughly 170 dogs in fetid conditions, hiding some of them from investigators, pleaded guilty Monday to two felony counts of animal neglect.

Christine Calvert, 62, and Mark Vattimo, 72, likely will receive three years' probation when they are sentenced in a San Diego courtroom next month, Deputy Dist. Atty. Karra Reedy said.

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They will not be allowed to have pets for a decade, and also likely will be ordered to undergo counseling. Reedy said the resolution, which came in the early stages of the case, is a "good outcome."

"The most important thing is that they get the help they need for something like this not to happen again," the prosecutor said.

In January, investigators found several dozen Yorkie mixes in a dark room in the couple's home. The dogs' coats were severely matted and tangled in feces, and many were suffering from ear infections, fleas and hair loss.

Feces and urine covered the floors and walls of the four-bedroom house; the smell was so strong that officers were forced to wear masks. Debris and mice were found on the floor.

Days later, investigators found out the couple had 31 more dogs, which were seized.

Several weeks later, authorities learned that Calvert had fled the state with more dogs. She was arrested in Primm, Nev., with 46 dogs in a motor home.

Authorities at the time said the dogs found with Calvert were in substantially the same condition as those found in the home, including severe matting and feces in their coats, and poor teeth.

In all, the San Diego Humane Society rescued about 170 dogs from the couple — but the number rose to about 185 after some of the pregnant Yorkies had puppies.

In discussing the case earlier this year, Stephen Mackinnon, the local Humane Society's chief law enforcement officer, said hoarding is a mental illness, and when people reach out for help, the priority is to get the animals the care they need.

But this case, he said, was a little different. The owners were withholding animals and interfering with an active investigation, so authorities pursued a criminal case.

Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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