Poway woman accused of hoarding 169 dogs pleads not guilty

Posted at 5:16 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-20 20:16:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A 62-year-old Poway woman accused along with her 73-year-old husband of hoarding 96 dogs in a home filled with feces, pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple counts of animal abuse and one count of resisting arrest.

Christine Calvert and Mark Vattimo face 10 counts of felony animal abuse and neglect and one misdemeanor count of resisting an officer.  Calvert remains free on $50,000 bail.  

Deputy District Attorney Lucy Yturralde unsuccessfully argued that bail be increased to $255,000, saying the Yorkies were living in horrible conditions at the home of Calvert and her husband Vattimo, who is also free on bail.

Their arrests came just over a month after authorities rescued 96 dogs being kept in unsanitary conditions in a residential neighborhood in Poway. About two weeks later, another 48 dogs were seized from a secondary location.

Calvert allegedly had stashed even more canines in a motorhome she had driven to Nevada, where she was taken into custody, according to the District Attorney's Office.

"The shocking conditions and sheer number of animals in the defendants' home make this a particularly disturbing case of animal abuse," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said in a statement.

Many of the dogs had "severe matting, feces entangled in their coats, skin issues, ear infections, fleas, hair loss, overgrown nails and poor teeth," the DA said. "One dog was missing part of its leg."

In all, 169 dogs were seized. Calvert was arrested last month in Primm, Nevada. The prosecutor said Calvert may have been headed to Florida where she owns property.

Readers may remember that the San Diego Humane Society took in the Yorkies, rehabilitated them and then held a special online adoption lottery. The organization received more than 1,800 applications in 24 hours and had to stop accepting applications.

"Hoarding is a mental illness and we have compassion for individuals who suffer from the disease," said Stephen MacKinnon, chief of humane law enforcement for the Humane Society. 

A readiness conference is set for April 13 and a preliminary hearing for May 16 for both Vattimo and Calvert. Each defendant faces a maximum of nine years in custody if convicted.

City News Service contributed to this report.