SHINGLE SPRINGS -- The doors at the El Dorado County Animal Shelter have been locked for several days after being forced to close to the public because the staff has been focused on moving and processing this mass influx of animals.
Investigators carted out kennels from a Shingle Springs home now at the center of an animal neglect investigation.
"Sometimes not fed and cold and skinny and in the mud up to their knees," neighbor Kimberly Simpson said.
Three hundred animals were found living on the property including dogs, cats, birds and horses. Neighbors like Simpson say they’ve complained to animal control for several years about the noise and smell coming from the home.
"It just makes you wonder what was really going on daily for all this time," Simpson said.
But it wasn't until Thursday that action was taken.
"Certain legal processes. Again, we were requested by the sheriff’s department to come out and we took action," county animal services Chief Henry Brzezinski said about the delay.
Brzezinski says animal control only had “legal grounds” to search the house now because the couple living there was being evicted. He says the couple had refused to leave under their given timetable, so the sheriff’s office was called out to order them to vacate the property.
Animal control was charged with seizing any animals living there. That's when they say they found signs of neglect and 22 dead animals in freezers.
"One of the issues is in El Dorado County if you have five or more dogs or five or more cats you must have a noncommercial establishment license, kind of a kennel permit," Brzezinski said.
The woman who lived on the property, Alma Marie Winston, admits to not having a license, but she says she was just trying to help the animals and believes she’s being targeted.
"When this agency goes into homes that are caring for their animals and confiscates them under false pretenses, then the agency ends up with these animals, finds homes for them and charges for them," she told FOX40.
Claiming animal control is just trying to profit by selling her animals.
She admits to having some animals in her freezer but says she was preserving them for a proper burial.
"Of course we feed them and of course we give water, I mean that’s insane," she said. "Who would not feed an animal?"
As the investigation continues, neighbors are just hoping the animals end up in a better place.
"Very fortunately, these animals are going to get new homes," Simpson said.
No charges have been filed in the case, but the investigation is ongoing.
Winston says many of her dogs were sick with a disease called circovirus. Animal services would not comment on whether any of the animals are sick.
The animal shelter is set to reopen on Wednesday.