WESTCHESTER TOWNSHIP | Fifty-five dogs were removed Wednesday from an old white farmhouse northeast of Chesterton in what police are saying is one of the worst cases of animal hoarding they've seen.
Porter County sheriff's police and animal control officers obtained a search warrant Tuesday for the home in the 100 block of East County Road 1400 North after neighbors told the Health Department in November they feared excessive animal waste around the home was getting into their drinking water.
Animal control officers visited the home days after that initial report was filed and found numerous dogs drinking stagnant water contaminated with urine and feces. They said they also saw dogs attacking other dogs.
This month, animal control officers returned and the owner, Donna Montoya, agreed to surrender seven puppies that were later found to be flea-infested and carrying parvovirus.
Police said animal cruelty charges are pending.
Montoya denied claims her pets aren't well-kept and well-fed, saying she provides them with 150 pounds of food each day.
"I bathe them all regularly and they eat better than we do," she said, standing outside her home.
Sgt. Larry LaFlower, public information officer for the Porter County Sheriff's Department, said officers planned to remove the dogs more than a month ago but needed to secure proper facilities.
"What we didn't want to do was take the dogs from a bad situation to a worse one," he said.
As police brought the dogs out of the home Wednesday, many of the large Rottweiler and German shepherd-mix dogs violently fought back, not wanting to go into trucks ready to take them to a veterinarian.
At least one dog appeared injured, unable to move his hind legs. As he was placed in a waiting truck, the dog whimpered loudly.
Another dog bit Porter County Officer Roger Bowles in his left hand, leaving a deep, bloody wound. LaFlower said Bowles was taken to Porter hospital for treatment.
LaFlower said he saw another of the large dogs attack a smaller dog shortly after serving the warrant, tossing it around like a stuffed doll.
Montoya agreed she needs to reduce the number of pets in her home.
"I have too many dogs. It's become a 24-hour job," she said. "I'd like to keep my original five favorites, plus a couple I bottle fed."