Scores of animals taken from Eagle River home

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 20:00
Two face animal cruelty charges

Authorities arrested two Eagle River men on animal-cruelty charges after finding about three dozen dogs and nearly 50 parakeets living in filth at an Eagle River home last weekend.

Combine all those animals with a separate situation that brought 22 cats to Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center, and the municipal shelter is just about maxed out. (See page 5) The Eagle River case started with a disturbing discovery by maintenance man Robert Jones.

For the last five years, Daniel Hoffman, 51, and Lester Mendez, 46, rented a single-family home with a three-car garage on Hanson Drive, according to the home’s owner, Wayne Hanson.

Jones paid a visit Saturday, Jan. 14 after the two men reported frozen pipes, said Hanson, an Anchorage bed and breakfast operator.

Nearing the home, Jones smelled and saw all the animals inside and alerted animal-welfare officers. Once inside, he discovered dogs in pet carriers stacked six high and feces everywhere — inches deep on some floors and covering the bottoms of the pet carriers.

“He couldn’t get up the stairs to check on the pipes,” Hanson said Monday. “It was unreal. I haven’t been in the house yet to tell you the truth. I’ve got kind of a weak stomach.”

Police arrested Hoffman and Mendez on charges of animal cruelty.

All told, authorities discovered 39 dogs ranging in age, most of them small breeds, and more than 40 parakeets, according to Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center spokeswoman Brooke Taylor.

Anchorage police spokeswoman Anita Shell described the home’s condition as “unkempt” with pathways leading through stacks of items, electric heaters the only source of heat and an “unusable” kitchen that contained a 25-gallon barrel filled with dog food. Little water appeared available to the dogs. An officer saw one dog running in and out of a bathroom, apparently thirsty and drawn to the toilet; the officer closed the door to keep the dog from drinking the feces-fouled water.

Both men are out of custody after making bail. The voice mail was full at a phone number listed for Hoffman.

A neighbor who said he lives across the street from the men said he didn’t even know they had dogs.

The home has been condemned, Hanson said, which saves him the challenge of evicting his tenants. He’s waiting on more information before proceeding with cleanup.

Authorities at the animal shelter weren’t releasing much information because the animal-cruelty case is ongoing. They hoped to have an update later this week.Veterinarians on Monday were still examining the dogs and birds but some do have health problems, Taylor said. It’s unclear whether any of them will need to be euthanized.

“Because of the living conditions they were found in and the neglect that we believe we were seeing, there are some animals with health concerns,” she said.


Zaz Hollander is a freelance writer from Palmer.

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