A woman who is at the center of an animal-cruelty investigation after dead and allegedly malnourished dogs were found on her rural Davis property says the incident has been “blown out of proportion” and maintains she’s done nothing to warrant criminal charges.
“I think I should get my dogs back,” Elaine Greenberg, president and operator of Second Chance Rottweiler Rescue, said in a phone interview Tuesday with The Davis Enterprise.
Greenberg also said Yolo County sheriff’s officials deemed her “5150” — the state code for an involuntary mental-health hold — and hospitalized her last week because “they said I wasn’t fit,” though she was released after just a few hours.
Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Cecchettini would not confirm or deny the hold, citing patient privacy laws, but he did say an investigation into the discovery of three dead dogs — along with 11 live ones described as starving and dehydrated — on Greenberg’s property remains underway and could be in prosecutors’ hands later this week.
Cecchettini said the surviving dogs have been examined by a veterinarian to determine how long they allegedly had gone without food and water at the property on County Road 96 west of Davis. The evidence will be forwarded to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, which is expected to review the information and determine what type of charges, if any, should be filed.
“This is an extensive investigation,” Cecchettini said. Based on the length of the alleged neglect, “each affected dog could involve additional charges, but that’s up to the DA’s Office.”
Second Chance Rottweiler Rescue Inc. has operated as a nonprofit corporation since Feb. 25, 2002, according to documents on file with the California Secretary of State’s Office. But Greenberg, 74, said she’s been rescuing the German dog breed from harm’s way for some 50 years.
“I’ve always been interested in Rottweilers,” Greenberg said, noting that her personal guard dog, Kingston, was among those confiscated from her property last week. “It’s pretty bad” not having them around, she added.
Second Chance has a five-member board of directors who meet once a year but are “rarely” on site, and Greenberg said she runs the rescue largely on her own. The board’s secretary, Vince Augusta, has declined to comment on the investigation.
Yolo County Animal Services Sgt. Mike Nevis described Greenberg’s kennels as “very unkept,” littered with fecal matter and with no food or water available to the dogs. The three dead animals were “very well decomposed,” he said.
Greenberg disputed Nevis’ assessment Tuesday, saying she fed the dogs daily but didn’t keep food in their bowls because it tended to attract bugs. The dogs’ water bowls typically are filled in the afternoons, and she hadn’t yet performed that task when officers arrived last week, she said.
She also claimed that the dogs that had died had been dead only for several days, and that she had not yet had a chance to take their remains to Animal Services in Woodland.
Two of the animals were older in age — 14 and 17 — but “who knows why they died,” Greenberg said. Questioned about their advanced state of decomposition, she attributed it to the extreme heat last week.
As for the surviving dogs’ gaunt appearance, Greenberg said one of them arrived at the rescue in that condition just two days earlier, while the others “need to be thin because of their orthopedic problems.” She also contends the animals were in the 80- to 85-pound range, not the roughly 50 pounds recorded at the animal shelter following their removal.
The confiscated dogs remain in the care of the Rotts of Friends animal rescue operation on County Road 29, where their conditions are steadily improving, owner Renee Lancaster said Tuesday.
“The dogs are gaining weight,” Lancaster said, and feedings are down from four a day to three. Their behavior has changed as well, with one Rottweiler that was withdrawn upon arrival “really coming out of her shell.”
Lancaster dismissed as nonsense Greenberg’s contention that the dogs’ orthopedic problems dictated their current weight.
“Dogs never look this emaciated from orthopedic problems,” she said. “You should be able to feel their ribs, but not see them. These dogs were unhealthy skinny.”
Lancaster also said her organization has been “overwhelmed” with calls and emails from the Yolo County community and beyond with offers to provide foster homes for the surviving dogs or donate toward their care. What will happen with them depends upon the course of the investigation, she added.
Cecchettini, the sheriff’s captain, noted that the Yolo County animal shelter in Woodland has never placed dogs with Second Chance. He said his agency’s only prior contact with Greenberg’s operation occurred about seven years ago, when animal services officers received a complaint of excessive barking at the property.
“During the course of the investigation the kennels appeared to be clean and in good working order,” Cecchettini said.
Officers returned to Second Chance last week after a neighbor reported that two of Greenberg’s dogs had gotten loose and had come onto her property on the morning of July 28, coupled with a report from a board member that conditions were not “up to par,” said Nevis, the Animal Services sergeant.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene