Eleven pit bulls were found dead Wednesday and more than two dozen other animals were malnourished and in ill health at a trash-strewn home in Riverside County, authorities said.
A person living near the home in the unincorporated area of La Sierra reported Tuesday that a stench was coming from the neglected property, said John Welsh, spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
When officials returned the following day with a search warrant, they found the dead and ill animals amid the squalor.
Riverside County sheriff's deputies and animal control officers encountered a wasteland: rooms filled with trash, animal feces and dilapidated furniture.
Some of the 38 dogs on the property had been kept in bedrooms or in makeshift kennels in hallways and other rooms.
"The dogs destroyed the entire house," Welsh said. The home has been deemed uninhabitable by authorities.
Of the dogs that were alive, many were emaciated. Some could not walk out of the home under their own power and had to be carried. It's unclear how long the animals had been neglected, but officials said it was more than a few days.
"Dogs don't get that skinny overnight," Welsh said.
Investigators have been unable to make contact with the home's owner or a possible tenant at the property, Welsh said. Officials are conducting an inquiry for possible charges of felony animal cruelty.
The owner of the dogs may have been a "backyard breeder" who sold them without the proper permits and simply walked away from the property, Welsh said.
The database maintained by the county's animal services department did not indicate that officials had been called to the property before.
The San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus took in the surviving dogs and has placed them under quarantine. Each was examined by a veterinarian, Welsh said. The animals' current health status was unclear.
Welsh said the absence of care of the dogs offered a cautionary tale for prospective animal owners to visit breeders and understand how their future pets were raised.
"This is why we encourage people not to buy from someone selling from a parking lot or on Craigslist," he said. "You want to go and visit the dogs."
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