With nearly two dozen cats–many infested with fleas and all living in deplorable conditions–being seized at a Santa Ana home Tuesday, the question must be asked: How did the city that is the county seat also become Orange County's capitol of animal hoarding?
Let's take the most recent cases in order:
Two girls, then 6 and 12, were put in the care of other adults in February 2011 after Santa Ana police and animal services officers went to a residence on South Baker Street and–before even entering–were overcome by the stench of urine and feces and sight of live and dead flies congregating around the windows and doors. Returning in full haz-mat gear–including body suits and respirators–the officers found feces and urine stains all over the floors and other surfaces, as well as cat hair, roaches and flies. Animal Services reported 110 cats were captured inside of the house, many of them feral and more than 20 eventually had to be euthanized. The total veterinary cost to treat the cats exceeded $10,000. Five adults were arrested on various felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty and child endangerment counts, but Orange County Superior Court judges dismissed all charges because the officers had not obtained a warrant before raiding the home.
Neighborhood complaints about the stench coming from then-53-year-old William Frederick Buchman's home in the 2900 block of North Fernwood Drive sent Santa Ana police officers there the morning of Jan. 29, 2014, to serve a search warrant. They discovered 400 snakes–some alive, some dead, some decaying–as well as the rats, mice and pieces of rodents the pythons fed on. Crews in protective haz-mat uniforms and gas masks spent hours that day removing the pythons. About 240 were dead, and those still alive were malnourished, dehydrated and covered with mites and/or maggots. Twenty more died shortly after being impounded. Buchman, a Newport-Mesa Unified School District elementary school teacher, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of animal abuse by a caretaker and was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. He was also required to undergo a 16-week animal neglect prevention program; forbidden from owning, possessing, caring for or living with any animal for five years; ordered to pay $17,000 in restitution for veterinary treatment and animal care; and told to donate $25,000 worth of reptile cages from his collection to a snake rescue organization.
Last June, the body of 72-year-old Rita Corpin was found sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of her home in the 1400 block of South Rosewood Avenue with a cat carrier in her lap and a live kitten inside the carrier. She died of natural causes, and a search of the premises uncovered two pit bulls, as many as 50 feral cats and disgusting hoarder conditions there and at her two other homes in town. Corpin, who earned a state pension surpassing $120,000 a year, served 48 years as a Garden Grove Unified School District teacher, on Santa Ana's Planning Commission and as a neighborhood activist and Historical Society member. But when her body was found by her gardener, her yard was covered in piles of garbage, and while no animals were found at her other two homes, a neighbor of one claimed Corpin would often come by and leave cat food in bowls.
Authorities say complaints about the smell coming from a home sent them to the 1200 block of West St. Andrew Place several days ago, when the homeowner wouldn't allow
police or animal-control officers inside without a warrant. So they obtained one Tuesday, raided the place and found nearly two dozen cats, including three kittens, piles of debris everywhere, feces-filled cat boxes and cat poop covering much of the home's interior, according to Santa Ana Animal Services. Homeowner Mary Lee Edgecomb, 67, could face criminal charges, according to authorities.