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Arleta couple charged with cruelty in hoarding of nearly 100 dogs

Dogs with highly contagious illnesses left to fend for themselves. Others trapped in crowded cages that were stacked like cargo boxes.

Some of the dogs were so racked with life-threatening ulcers they dragged their limbs.

The animals were among 97 dogs rescued by animal control officers this summer inside a single-family home in Arleta.

On Friday, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced that he had filed animal cruelty and neglect charges against a couple who was supposed to be taking care of the dogs.

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“No humane society should allow conditions like we allege these animals were housed in to persist,” he said. “This is not how one treats cherished companions.”

The case is the third animal cruelty complaint filed by the city attorney’s office in less than three weeks.

Authorities say Christianna Billman Hartwell Coppola and her boyfriend, George Katcher, both 39, adopted the dogs from local animal shelters, then solicited donations from the public to help pay for the animals’ care.

But Feuer said the funds never went to the dogs, who instead lived in “utterly deplorable conditions.”

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The dogs were rescued after neighbors complained about foul odors and the condition of the home and animals.

Marla Tauscher, an attorney for Coppola, says she has filed a federal lawsuit against the city’s animal services department on behalf of her client and Corey Deborah Carnegie. The city attorney filed animal cruelty charges against Carnegie in a separate case.

Tauscher claims 60 animals were taken from a private veterinarian hospital, not Coppola’s property.

The animals, she said, were taken without warrant and consent.

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“It’s appalling that Mike Feuer would claim that Ms. [Coppola] solicited donations and didn’t use the money for care of the dogs,” the attorney wrote in an email. “If he actually said that, it’s incredibly irresponsible. It’s not only false, but completely unsubstantiated.”

Animal control officers, officials said, had to make two trips in June and one in July to rescue the animals. Feces and urine were scattered throughout the home, according to officials. There wasn’t enough food and water to feed all the dogs, they said.

“The officers said they could smell the stench of what was inside this house from 100 feet away,” Feuer said.

They found towels soaked in urine. Coppola was also covered in feces, authorities said.

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Several dogs, he said, were emaciated and suffered from intestinal parasites, mange, heartworm and upper respiratory infections.

At least one dog had swollen ears and infected paws because it was left standing in feces and urine.

The dogs will be adoptable once they heal from their ailments, said Brenda Barnette, general manager for the city’s Animal Services department.

For breaking news throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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