County, animal rescue group had been working to build case for more than a year.
Animal hoarder Ivan George Callais, Jr. is behind bars, facing five felony counts of animal cruelty.
He was arrested at his place of business in the Antelope Valley Mall on May 20 and is being held at Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on June 11 in Palmdale Superior Court.
In January, a contingent of animal rescue groups, coordinated by Acton-based A Wish for Animals, removed more than a hundred sick dogs and large farm animals from Callais’ Lancaster compound with the blessing of county Animal Control.
“We’d been working with Animal Control for a year,” said Toni Eakes, founder of A Wish for Animals. “When we came to Ivan then, he had 300 dogs and we didn’t see any of them being adopted out. We started trying to convince him that he needed to get the numbers down and he started trusting us. We got a couple hundred dogs adopted out last year, but then he lost some of his workers and the care of the animals went downhill.”
It was during this time that Eakes said they noticed that Callais started bringing in as many or more animals than they would adopt out, so she alerted Animal Control, who would come and count the animals every Monday.
“He figured out what we were doing and told us we were no longer welcome on the property,” she said. “Animal Control started documenting the abuse; some puppies were dying of dehydration and Parvo.”
When the county’s Nuisance Abatement Team came out to inspect the property, Eakes said that Callais hid on the floor of his trailer, in which he’d been living illegally, as there was no running water or electricity on the property. The county left a citation for Callais, giving him 90 days to remedy the problems and take care of the animals.
Callais called Eakes after the visit, telling her that he was sick and needed a place to take the animals, asking if he could sign the dogs over to her. She agreed, bringing in staff from Animal Acres to handle large farm animals in distress. According to Eakes, in January, two days before the end of the 90-day period, Callais fled the property, taking some of the animals with him.
The subsequent rescue efforts resulted in the 100+ dogs being removed from the property and adopted out; pregnant dogs were given homes and puppies cared for and a pregnant horse was adopted by Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste, who arranged for the horse’s care as well as care for her healthy colt, born a few months later.
Several other animal rescue groups helped by taking a few animals each; the Canine Country Club, All Breed Rescue and Pet Orphans took more than 70 dogs and arranged for their care. The Lancaster compound is now devoid of animals, but Eakes is still concerned that Callais has animals at an undisclosed location who may be suffering a similar fate to those that were rescued.
“We’ve heard that he took a sick husky with him and has begun to hoard again,” she said. “It’s been over a week now and we’re worried that it’s happening all over again.”
Eakes is now focusing her time working with Animal Control to provide pictures and documentation for Callais’ prosecution. This is Callais’ third serious brush with the law, in September 2000, he was charged by Los Angeles CityBurbank Boulevard officials with running a kennel without a permit, resulting in 60 dogs being confiscated from his residence in Woodland Hills. He was arrested by the FBI in April 2004 for animal abuse; in that case, 72 dogs were impounded along with three pot-bellied pigs and two hogs.