LORAIN — The Lorain County Dog Warden and Lorain Police Department seized 21 dogs from an apartment on East 28th Street on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly from “inhuman” conditions.
Lorain Building and Housing Inspector Chris Yates said he received an anonymous tip early Tuesday morning concerning the welfare of the animals in the apartment at 1703 E. 28th St. The situation was checked out by Lorain Patrolman Richard Broz, who specializes in animal calls within the city, which eventually resulted in a search warrant being called in and the dogs seized from the property.
Broz and Yates originally estimated between 10 and 15 dogs caged on the first floor of the building. All of them were reportedly cane corsos, according to Broz.
“Some are good, some are bad, some are super old, but this is a (makeshift) kennel,” Yates said. “It’s not up with the codes, the dogs are all being kept in single cages, some are two in one cage, there’s no water. I was told the owner did come and he waters them, but there’s no electricity, there’s nothing in there. They just sit in the dark all day.”
The dogs were left alone in the unventilated, un-air-conditioned apartment and were without water when they were found by law enforcement.
“It’s hotter than Hades, it reeks of dog urine and dog (feces) even though there’s not like accumulations of it, but the smell’s still there,” Broz said. “And in this heat, I can imagine what it was like in there days before this.”
Broz declined to release the dog owner’s name, but said cruelty to animals charges will be signed. There will be a probable cause hearing Tuesday and a judge will determine whether or not the animals will be returned. He said the dog owners lived offsite and kept the dogs in the two-story apartment alone.
Yates estimated the downstairs to be 12 by 34 feet and said there were definite violations to housing codes. He identified the building’s owner as Scottie Bowyer and said while the matter still was under investigation, charges could be pending against both the tenant who left the dogs in the house and the landlord.
According to the final head-count from the Friendship Animal Protective League, where the dogs were taken, there were 13 females and eight males, all adults, and appeared to be breeding dogs. Greg Willey, executive director of the Friendship APL, said many appear to have a flea allergy and possible mange, and some are very underweight and have possible eye infections. Cane corsos are a Mastiff-class breed of dog, usually weighing between 85 and 120 pounds, Willey said. The dogs seized weighed between 75 and 100 pounds on average.
“Often times these basement, backyard breeders go completely unregulated until they get caught,” Willey said. “Thankfully, they stumbled on this today and you get to elevate this at least for not this generation, no other generations (of dogs) are forced to suffer in this same environment, so that’s at least some sort of a win.”
Willey said Friendship APL usually sees two to three cases of backyard breeders a year, with cases varying from owners breeding the animals for profit, to the animals going unchecked, and un-spayed or neutered on a property.
If the dogs are not returned to their owner, the APL will be adopting them out depending on the temperament of each individual dog.
“These (dogs) are going to be for people that really have a sense of the breed and the work that will be involved,” Willey said. “These are dogs that probably haven’t seen a TV turned on, let alone life inside a house where they have free roam will be like.”
While taking the dogs out of the apartment, Broz was bitten by one, but said that it could have been out of fear, rather than a malicious attack.
“Half of them have been very sweet, nice dogs and a couple of them have been not so sweet and nice,” Broz said. “But then again, they don’t know us, they’re panicked, they were acting out of fear. I actually got bit by one of them … I’m not going to hold it against him.”
Denise Willis, chief humane officer with the Friendship APL, assisted with removing the dogs from the property. She said in her line of work she has come across “very many horrific things, but there’s a lot of dogs in there.”
She said she overheard that the dogs had been in the residence for about five months. The investigation is ongoing between the Lorain Police Department, dog warden and human officers.
Lorain Councilman Angel Arroyo, D-Ward 6, said he was driving by and saw the squad cars at the property and stopped to see what was going on.
“The dogs I (saw) coming out of the building weren’t malnourished, it was just them being in unbearable conditions,” Arroyo said. “It took a nosy person to reach out to Officer Broz and from there … that’s why it’s important for residents if they feel there’s something going on, if they see something, say something. It not only will save a person’s life but an animal’s life and this time, it saved 20 animals.”
The property is in his ward, and owned by Scottie Bowyer — who owns a number of other properties on East 28th Street. While Arroyo has not received a complaint about the apartment before, he said he intends to look into other properties Bowyer owns and see if there were any housing code or city ordinance violations.
While the animals and their owners await a court decision Tuesday, the influx of 21 dogs has created some space issues at Friendship APL, according to Willey. He said donations to help pay for vet care for the dogs are welcome, along with canned dog-food donations, but stressed the best way to help the shelter was to adopt an available animal from the APL.
The shelter, at 8303 Murray Ridge Road in Elyria, is open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.
This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: Lorain Councilman Angel Arroyo represents the city’s sixth ward.