Dozens of Shetland sheepdogs rescued from a burning Woodcrest home are ready for adoption as the Riverside Department of Animal Services is seeking to file charges against their former owner, officials said.
Firefighters extinguished a house fire July 19 where the shelties were being held near Pike Place and Van Buren Boulevard, officials said.
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The 61 dogs were handed over by their owner and were initially reported to be good health, but veterinarians later said the Shelties appeared to have been neglected for years.
"We believe these dogs were never cared for in a manner consistent with proper animal husbandry," said Dr. Allan Drusys, chief veterinarian with Riverside County.
The Shelties had tartar-covered teeth, matted fur and were tick and flea infested, officials said.
"Basically these dogs were fed and nothing else was done for them," Drusys said in a statement.
Riverside Animal Services Director Robert Miller said he plans to file animal cruelty charges against the owner with the District Attorney's Office for failing to provide "proper veterinary care."
"The animals were living in filth," Miller said.
Adoptions are scheduled to begin sometime next week and more than 100 people have already inquired about taking one of the dogs home.
Riverside Animal Services fears that some of those inquiries are friends of the former owner who are trying to get the dogs back.
Animal services will likely check potential applicants' yards and conduct a property inspection to make sure the dogs end up in a good home.
"We're going to do everything to ensure these dogs are going to loving families and not end up back in the possession of someone we do not believe is capable of caring for animals," Miller said.
Anyone still interested in possibly adopting one of the dogs are encouraged to email Riverside County Animal Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.