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Elderly couple faces animal cruelty charges for hoarding 140 dogs

POWAY, Calif. — An elderly couple accused of hoarding 92 Yorkshire terrier and Yorkie-mix dogs in their feces-filled Poway home, along with 48 other dogs at another location, are facing multiple counts of animal abuse, the District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Mark Vattimo, 73, and Christine Calvert, 62, are both charged with 10 counts of animal abuse and neglect, as well as a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer.

Vattimo was arrested Saturday and posted $50,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for March 6.

Calvert, who fled in a motorhome purchased by Vattimo, was arrested last Friday in Primm, Nevada, according to the D.A.’s office. She waived extradition and will be returned to San Diego to face charges.

The arrests came just over a month after authorities rescued 92 Yorkie-type dogs that were being kept in unsanitary conditions in a residential neighborhood in Poway. About two weeks later, another 48 dogs were seized from a secondary location.

Calvert allegedly had stashed even more dogsĀ in the motorhome she had driven to Nevada, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“The shocking conditions and sheer number of animals in the defendants’ home make this a particularly disturbing case of animal abuse,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.

Most of the Yorkies found by Humane Society investigators in a dark, mouse-infested room in the couple’s home had severe matting, feces entangled in their coats, skin issues, ear infections, fleas, hair loss, overgrown nails and poor teeth. One was missing part of a leg.

The Humane Society was tipped off by a complaint from a local veterinary clinic.

“Hoarding is a mental illness and we have compassion for individuals who suffer from the disease,” said Stephen MacKinnon, chief of humane law enforcement for the San Diego Humane Society. “When they reach out to us for help and are cooperative, our priority is to get the animals to safety and get the individuals the help they need.

In this instance, when we discovered the owners were withholding animals and interfering with an active investigation, it became intentional cruelty so criminal charges needed to be pursued,” he said. “We’re grateful for the support of the District Attorney’s Office and to be in a community that doesn’t tolerate animal cruelty or neglect.”

The dogs were taken to the San Diego Humane Society’s San Diego campus, where veterinarians and animal care teams examined and treated them, and about 90 were later adopted.