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This article was published 14/1/2019 (543 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The grim discovery of three dead puppies hidden in the garage of a home in the West End could lead to additional animal cruelty charges laid against a Winnipeg woman accused of abandoning 15 dogs at her residence in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
The Winnipeg Police Service announced the charges against Crystal Marie Molloy, 35, at a press conference Monday morning.
Later that evening, police were notified three deceased puppies were discovered hidden in a plastic bin in the garage at the residence by work crews hired to clean up the property.
The discovery sparked a renewed investigation and the potential for additional charges. Police were assisted by the Winnipeg Humane Society and animal protection officers when they attended the scene for the second time.
It remains unclear how long the dogs had been dead, but two of them were found frozen together, police sources told the Free Press.
Feces and urine encrusted on the furniture and walls, garbage and refuse strewn over every surface of the home, the air thick with a gag-inducing odour, and puppies scurrying across the floor like cockroaches.
That’s the scene that initially greeted two police officers on patrol Jan. 4 in the city’s West End, when they followed a foul stench on the 700 block of Home Street to a residence where they found 15 dogs abandoned.
Winnipeg police and the City of Winnipeg Animal Services Agency described it as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty in the city’s history.
"It’s incredibly tough to accurately convey the conditions of this house and how deplorable they were," WPS spokesman Const. Jay Murray said at the Monday morning news conference.
"We truly believe that if these officers hadn’t diverted their attention to this residence, that these dogs were certainly at risk of dying in a short matter of time."
The initial discovery led police to charge Malloy with five counts related to animal cruelty. Three of the charges are under the provincial Animal Care Act and two are under the Criminal Code. She’s been released on a promise to appear in court.
Officers were in the area at 5 a.m. on Jan. 4, while responding to an unrelated call. By chance, the officers happened to park their vehicle in front of 716 Home St.
The ramshackle house has a front porch cluttered with random belongings and no space on the ground cleared to walk. As the officers exited their cruiser, they noticed a "pungent, foul smell."
"This smell was apparently just horrendous, strong enough that officers were diverted from the street," a police source told the Free Press.
When they approached the house, they reported seeing "malnourished" dogs in "extreme distress," frantically scratching at the living room windows.
Photos from inside the home show floors covered with garbage, feces, urine, and half-chewed drywall and furniture. There was no food or water for the dogs, all of whom appeared thin and undernourished.
For days following their seizure, the dogs defecated drywall and couch stuffing, indicating they were so hungry they had begun to eat the walls and furniture in the home, officials said.
The dogs were all mixed breed; 10 of them are puppies and five young adults.
"One of the puppies also had an ulcer on their eyes. The adult dogs that we have, they were all covered in poop, multiple ear infections on the dogs, some of the nails were starting to curl because the nails were so long," said Leland Gordon, Animal Services Agency chief operating officer.
"The most disturbing thing in this case, I would say, is there are a lot of dog psychological issues... Just imagine you’re living in a home with horrific conditions for quite some time. You don’t have access to food or water. You don’t have access to the outdoors."
Police believe Molloy had lived at the residence with the dogs, but moved out between one week and one month prior to the police visit, abandoning the animals in the home. She is not the owner of the property, but had been living there as a renter. The cleaning crew that discovered the deceased puppies Monday evening had been hired by the owner.
Molloy told police she had planned to sell the dogs online, Murray said, but officials don’t believe the home was operating as a puppy mill.
Gordon believes all of the dogs recovered alive will survive, but some face a long road to recovery due to the psychological issues they suffer from the neglect and living conditions. He declined comment when asked if animal services have had contact with Molloy or the residence prior to Jan. 4.
"I talked to officers today. They had to wash their clothes numerous times. Even just transporting these dogs, the cruiser cars had to be decontaminated... The conditions of the home were some of the worst animal services have ever seen," Murray said.
The five adult dogs — believed to be a few years old — remain in the care of the animal services agency. The 10 puppies are believed to be about three months old and are receiving advanced care at the Winnipeg Humane Society.
It is believed all will eventually go up for adoption, Gordon said.
The City of Winnipeg said it has connected Molloy with social services.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
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Updated on Monday, January 14, 2019 at 11:20 PM CST: Updates story, headline