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26 cocker spaniels seized in Riverside County

July 10, 2009 | 12:29 pm

Animal services officials are seeking homes for 26 cocker spaniels that were confiscated from a woman arrested on unrelated theft charges and accused of hoarding the dogs, authorities said today.

Nelli Olsen, 35, was arrested on grand larceny charges June 29 after law enforcement officials said she wrote bad checks to rent several properties in the Coachella Valley. Olsen was suspected of amassing a large pack of dogs at the homes.Olsen Nelli 051573 (2)

“The dog owner kept moving the dogs from residence to residence,” said Betsy Ritchie, captain of field operations for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

Olsen lived at eight residences in Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage over two years, Ritchie said. She would typically rent a property and not pay the rent until she was evicted. When the first check Olsen wrote to her last landlord in Palm Desert allegedly bounced, the homeowner called police.

Animal control officer James Huffman and a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy finally caught up with Olsen two weeks ago, when they joined forces to serve her with an arrest warrant for an outstanding matter in Los Angeles County, officials said.

Huffman had been investigating complaints from numerous property owners about a large pack of dogs being kept in various homes. He soon suspected that all the cases involved the same person.

Investigations at several properties and consultations with property owners confirmed Olsen was the person he was pursuing, said John Welsh, a spokesman for the Department of Animal Services.

Some of the properties Olsen rented sustained damage of up to $7,000, because the cocker spaniels apparently had free reign of the homes, authorities said. The house from which the dogs were confiscated was soaked with urine and sullied with feces, and there was almost no water available to the animals, except for toilet water, Ritchie said.

Ritchie said the dog hoarding case was atypical, because hoarders tended to be women in their mid-50s to early 60s, who have lived at the same location for a long time.

Olsen "didn’t fit the hoarder profile,” Ritchie said.

The animal services official described the cocker spaniels, now available for adoption, as beautiful dogs, ranging from 1 to 9 years old. Almost all are identical -- black with brown eyebrows and brown feet -- except for one that is cocoa-colored. Ritchie said that because cocker spaniels are “not very good with young children,” they would be better suited to a home where any children are older.

“These little dogs sure need some love," Ritchie said. "They’ve been in a house with 26 other dogs. They need some individual loving.”

The dogs are available for adoption today at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms.

-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: Nelli Olsen. Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department