According to Tricia Geisreiter of Santa Cruz County Animal Services, a neighbor called to report that a resident on the 100 block of Hartman Creek Road was mistreating dogs. When animal control officers responded they found dead dogs and mistreated dogs. The resident was uncooperative so they returned Saturday with a search warrant and seven sheriff's deputies.
Sheriff's Sgt. Fred Plageman said the property owner fled from the back of the property.
"Some of the dogs were not well-behaved," Plageman said.
Inside the residence, officers found dead dogs at the foot of the bed and "feces everywhere."
Geisreiter said most of the dogs were in "pretty bad condition" and were scared and not friendly.
"They were literally living in dog crates, chained to the ground with no food, no water," she said.
Officers found 38 living dogs and an unknown number of dead dogs and decomposing carcasses. Only one full carcass was found, the rest were body parts, Geisreiter said.
"There were decapitated dogs heads all over the property, hanging from trees," she said. "We don't know how the dogs died or why their heads were cut off. We are investigating him for crimes against animals."
Officers found 2-day-old puppies as well as 4- and 6-week-old puppies. Apparently the man was advertising puppies for sale in San Jose and San Francisco, Geisreiter said.
Most of the dogs were cane corsos, mastiffs, labradors, rotweillers and other mixed breeds, she said.
One older dog was found inside the cab of a pickup, also without food and water. In a clearing on the property, officers found a large bag of dog food open for any dogs that weren't in cages.
Some of the dogs also had "quite a bit of fight scars on them that had been sutured together." Geisreiter said. "We don't know that this gentleman was using them for fighting. Sometimes when animals are in huge packs, they will fight."
While animal services officers are doing their best to care for the animals in their control, they don't know if they will be able to save any of the dogs.
"While we are caring for them right now, they are legally his until the DA (District Attorney) decides whether or not to prosecute," she said.
"Maybe he will want to surrender some of the animals to us," she said. "Hypothetically we will be able to put them up for adoption."