Trouble at Casa K-9

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Helen Jackson, longtime Ridgecrest resident and owner of Casa K-9 Kennel at 1236 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., is facing the possibility of a court battle.

On July 5, at 6 p.m., Ridgecrest Police Department officers raided the kennel and seized 14 dogs and 16 cats on grounds of alleged cruel and inhumane conditions. Officers spent four hours removing the animals and transferring them to the Ridgecrest Animal Shelter on County Line Road.

According to Kern County Deputy District Attorney Scott Garver, his office just received information on the case Aug. 5. “We’re still reviewing filing options, given the media attention and age of the suspect,” said Garver. Charges will not be filed until a decision is reached whether or not criminal activity is suspected and a reasonable case can be made.

Jackson, 84, has been in business for 27 years. In the past, she has been known to occasionally rescue stray animals and care for them at her own expense until homes were found.

While three of the seized animals were being boarded and have since been reunited with their owners, it is unknown how many of the other 27 animals were rescues and how many were personal pets.

Jackson’s electricity had been cut off last November, after an electrical fire, and cannot be turned back on until she can bring various building issues up to code. That meant no cooling for the animals in cages during summer heat.

So far Jackson has declined to comment, saying, “There’s just too much going on here. I’d rather wait until later to make a statement, and then I’ll call you.”

Animal Control, however, has had a great deal to say. Officer Candace Robbs, who was on scene, described what she saw that night.

“We were doing a welfare check. The electricity was off, and I saw two cats in desperate need of care, so we had to go back with a warrant. We found skinny animals and cages that had not been taken care of in quite some time,” said Robbs.

“All the animals were taken to the shelter, except for three ferals we couldn’t catch. All had to have baths to kill ticks and mites. Several of the animals have already had three baths. One elderly dog had to have her back dew claws clipped because they were so overgrown they had grown into her pads, making it hard for her to walk.

“There were cockroaches and mice and black widows. The whole thing struck me hard. No boarding facility should look like that.

“I met Mrs. Jackson. She’s 84 but she gets around very well and puts up a good fight with the best of them. She’s feisty. She has a gentleman there who takes care of the place and has two dogs of his own. He was trying to help at the time.”

Robbs said she believes some of the animals can be put up for adoption once the court process allows. “We need to get them healthy first. None of the cats were spayed or neutered, so they may not all be adoptable.

“A few have severely bad teeth, and we have to give them soft food. We’ll take them to the vet to see if they can be helped. All of them are very skinny and have to be fed two or three times a day. Hopefully, most if not all will find permanent homes and get better. That’s what we pray for.”

Ten days later, Animal Control Supervisor Mary Stage gave an update.

“The animals are now doing very well. The skinny dogs are no longer skinny. Some of them have gained 10 to 15 pounds and they’re looking really good. All the ones with ticks and mites, we had to tick-dip three times and pick the ticks off with tweezers because they were so badly infected. The groomer has come out three different times to help with that,” said Stage.

“The cats are pretty much feral. You can’t touch them. Many have neurological problems and are being kept separate from the other cats. It’s like they keep having seizures and fall over when they try to walk. We may have to euthanize some of them, but will wait to see what the court directs us to do.

“Thanks to microchipping, the three animals that were being boarded have been returned to their owners. We’re very happy to see the progress the dogs have made in the last few weeks. We’re taking care of them the way they deserve to be treated.

“We’ve had them checked out by vets and gave them lots of food and water and air conditioning.”

Police Captain Paul Wheeler, who is also the code enforcement supervisor for the city of Ridgecrest, said the issues with Casa K-9 go back to late last November, when the building inspector reported violations. The building was also inspected by the fire department.

“The fire department deemed the building unfit for habitation by humans or animals, and pulled the electric meter. We found code violations and sent the owner a letter advising she needed to fix those,” said Wheeler.

“On June 27, we received another call regarding deplorable conditions. Animal Control went out and confirmed this, a warrant was obtained, and they went back out. Approximately 30 animals were found in poor condition and were seized. Two had to be euthanized and most required veterinary attention. We wrote reports.

“The whole thing is just sad. No one likes to see an animal neglected. It’s not the dog or cat’s fault — they’re totally dependent on humans.”

Story First Published: 2013-08-07