UPDATE, 3/7/17: San Diego Police Department spokesperson Scott Wahl confirmed Vattimo is a retired SDPD officer. He left in 1986.
SAN DIEGO - A Poway man accused, along with his wife, of hoarding 94 Yorkshire terrier and Yorkie-mix dogs in filthy conditions in their home pleaded not guilty today to 10 felony counts of animal abuse and one misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
Mark Vattimo, 73, can remain free on his posted $50,000 bail as long as he doesn't possess any animals and allows authorities to search his home or business at any time while the case is pending, said Deputy District Attorney Karra Reedy.
The prosecutor said the Humane Society got a report in January from a concerned veterinarian about the condition of dogs that were allegedly being kept in an unsanitary dark room filled with feces, urine and mice at the home of Vattimo and Christine Calvert.
Officials from the Humane Society went to the home but were initially denied entrance, Reedy said. A few days later, officials were allowed in and 94 dogs were removed from the defendants' home over six to eight hours, the prosecutor said.
Twenty-nine dogs were subsequently taken from another location and 46 dogs were seized from a motorhome when Calvert was arrested last month in Primm, Nevada. Calvert, 62, is being extradited to San Diego to face the same charges as her husband, the prosecutor said.
"I think this is a pretty horrific case in the sense of the sheer number of animals and the conditions that these animals were being kept in," the prosecutor said. "That's an awful lot of dogs to have in one location kept in those conditions by two people."
All of the dogs that were seized from the home had health problems, including ear infections and severe matting.
Prosecutors are still trying to figure out why the couple had so many animals, but officials with the San Diego Humane Society say mental health issues are common in this type of situation.
“In terms of people who hoard, it is a mental health issue,” said Elizabeth Pesci, with the Humane Society. “For the most part, what happens is they just start collecting dogs and the dogs start to breed and more and more come into existence and they don't know what to do about it.”
About 90 dogs have been adopted after being nursed back to health by the Humane Society. Roughly 46 dogs are still recovering at the Humane Society, they should be available for adoption in the next two weeks.
Each defendant faces a maximum of nine years in custody if convicted. A readiness conference is set for April 13 and a preliminary hearing for May 16.