Everywhere you look in Nicanor Santiago's Madera backyard, hoards of dogs could be seen and heard. Many of the white and brown hound, beagle and pit bull mixes able to free themselves from the caged fence and end up inside his house.
"We saw things that I never dreamed I would ever see," said Vendetta Yenter, an animal advocate. Rescue groups showed up throughout the day Thursday to help the 72-year-old dog owner find homes for more than 100 animals.
"I just can't do this anymore. Sometimes I don't eat so I can save money to feed the dogs," said dog owner NIcanor Santiago. He has taken in stray dogs over the years but some of them have had litters of their own. The city has fined him numerous times for licensing violations and since he can't pay the citations, he says it's time to give them up.
"Some of them are underweight. Probably the ones that are having a harder time fighting for food," said Brenda Mitchell with the Animal Compassion Team, a rescue group. "Puppies are definitely struggling."
One by one, some of those puppies and other malnourished dogs were being taken by rescue groups. But not all can be saved. "It's kind of overwhelming to go through and take out whoever you can because there's so many and of course they're upset," said Mitchell.
A sign posted outside Santiago's house reads "Free Dogs" in Spanish. "It's sad to see them go but what can I do?" asked Santiago. He said he doesn't want animal control services to take the dogs because he fears they will be put to sleep.
At the end of the day, there were still more than 50 dogs left. The ones taken away have a better chance of finding a loving one. The owner says he's accepting food donations to help feed the remaining animals.