Tuesday, December 12 , 2017, 7:29 am | Haze Smoke 41º


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Homes Found For All But 3 Dogs From Los Alamos Hoarding House

Man charged in connection with case sentenced Monday as volunteers reveal labor of love to transform timid canines

Blue is one of three dogs dogs seized during a Los Alamos hoarding case six months ago that still is looking to be adopted. Click to view larger
Blue is one of three dogs dogs seized during a Los Alamos hoarding case six months ago that still is looking to be adopted. (Contributed photo)

All but three of the dogs seized during a Los Alamos hoarding case six months ago have new owners, as volunteers hope to find forever homes for the remaining animals soon.

On Monday, Santa Barbara County Animal Services volunteers provided an update on the dogs, hours after the man charged in connection with the criminal case was sentenced.

In the six months since the dogs were rescued, a small army of volunteers has worked to socialize the extremely timid dogs so they could find new homes. 

“It’s my life project to get all the dogs into great homes and for it to stick,” said Darlene Casey, one of the volunteers and the adopter of one of those dogs, now called Bogart.

But the challenges volunteers encountered might best be exemplified by Jackson, who fled from his new home in Vandenberg Village last week and remained missing Monday despite search crews spending hours on the hunt.

Last fall, the dogs, 23 in all, were rescued from a Los Alamos home county officials called “squalid and unlivable.”

“Of course, they came in completely shut down,” Casey said.

The dogs did not just shake upon seeing humans, but appeared to have convulsions so bad the volunteers called them earthquakes, she said, adding they were unfamiliar with normal sights and smells. 

“It was just sensory overload,” Casey said.

One dog died soon after being taken into custody due to being in poor health., Casey said.

The dogs, mostly Catahoula Cur mixes, were not spayed or neutered or socialized as they were crammed into bedrooms. While they were given food and water, the dogs had sores that led to fur loss.

Additionally, they had burns to their paws, suspected to be from stepping in urine and feces. 

“They still show the signs of that type of neglect,” Casey said.

Using friendly “helper dogs” at the shelter, volunteers worked to gain the trust of the rescued animals. While extremely shy, the Los Alamos dogs have not shown signs of aggression.

“We just have to earn their trust. Once you do, they don’t they don’t leave your side,” Casey said.

Volunteers couldn’t help but bond with the dogs — and have mixed feelings as each found homes.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster with that experience, but it’s been really rewarding, too,” Casey said. 

One still in need of a home is Blue, a confident canine who lived with a foster family for a time and proved to be a happy boy, Casey said.

He remains at Dog Adoption and Welfare Group.

Sylvester and Rhonda, who also need homes, are housed with the Santa Barbara Humane Society.

But with the news about finding homes for most of the dogs comes worry for Jackson, who is under 3 years old, and fled from his Vandenberg Village owners.

The black dog with a white chest sported a red collar at the time he disappeared. 

“He just kind of vanished into the bushes,” Casey said. 

Jackson escaped two weeks after he joined the family, his new owner Tania Marin said.

In their first meeting, Jackson and the family’s other pet, a rabbit named Nibbles, were immediately comfortable with each other, sealing the deal for the dog to join the family.

But Jackson remained generally skittish, easily startled such as when he stepped on a plastic water bottle in his new yard.

“He’s just so scared of every sound,” Marin said.

Because of his fearfulness, Jackson escaped and quickly darted away from the Vandenberg Village home.

“It’s been very emotional, overwhelming, tiring, trying to look for him and make sure that he’s safe,” Marin said.

Bowls of food and water were left where he was last spotted to encourage him to come out of hiding. 

Volunteers spent the weekend looking for Jackson, using other canines from the Los Alamos hoarding house to try to lure Jackson back to safety.

The volunteers hope the community will help keep an eye out since sightings of Jackson have been few.

“We’re at a place where unless he’s starving to death he won’t come to somebody unless it’s somebody he knows,” Casey said.

Anyone with information about Jackson’s whereabouts is urged to call 610.390.1085, 805.737.7755 or 805.934.6119.

Taking a break from searching, Casey, her Los Alamos rescue dog, Bogart, and Jackson’s owner were among those who showed up Monday at the Santa Maria Court Complex for the sentencing hearing of the man charged in connection with the hoarding case. 

Sean Donaghy, 48, had been charged with a misdemeanor count of failure to care for animals and pleaded no contest May 3, according to Deputy District Attorney Cory Graves.

On Monday, Donaghy was sentenced to three years of formal probation, with terms including complying with Animal Services, not owning dogs unless his probation officer agrees, and to have all dogs spayed and neutered, Graves added.

Casey said she wanted to tell Donaghy they forgive him, she said.

“We hope he uses his experience to influence others in similar situations,” Casey wrote in a Facebook post. “To spay/neuter their pets. To reach out for help before it becomes hurtful to their pets. To socialize their dogs with people and other friendly dogs. 

“It could mean the difference in whether they find a new home and a happily ever after,” Casey added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Jackson, who was among 23 seized last year during a Los Alamos hoarding case, recently ran away from his new home in Vandenberg Village and had not been found as of Monday. Click to view larger
Jackson, who was among 23 seized last year during a Los Alamos hoarding case, recently ran away from his new home in Vandenberg Village and had not been found as of Monday. (Contributed photo)
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