25 animals seized from Madera County animal rescue after reports of animal cruelty

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A case of animal cruelty in Madera County had Animal control officers seize more than 25 animals from a backyard last Friday. The animals belonged to a local rescue.

Home videos by "Love Me, Don't Leave Me Rescue" show happy, energetic, dogs frolicking in green pastures. But animal control officers said, in reality, the rescue did the opposite of what their name suggests.

"Had about an inch full of feces they were wallowing in, no shade, no nothing-- it was awful," said Kirsten Gross, Director Madera County Animal Services.

More than 25 animals were living in filth instead of clean, comfortable, spaces. The dogs were kept in small crates, with no food or water. Neighbors said they assumed it was just a rescue that became overwhelmed.

"It might have just gotten out of hand. She might have had good intention in the beginning, and it spiraled out of control," said Niko Pehl, Neighbor.

Rescuers said this may not be a simple hoarding case-- officers had contacted the rescue's leader, Melanie Sanchez, multiple times. On Facebook they said she lied about her group being a non-profit and provided a fake EIN number

"They've always got a good story on there. It might not be valid, might just be a way for them to absorb money to their own pocket and not care for the animals at all," said Gross.

Before moving to a home along Camden Drive the rescue squatted in an abandoned house until they were evicted. It also turns out Sanchez had been arrested before.

"She's been hiding things, so after time, you know, there's something bad going on here when she can't come forth and let us be part of the saving of these animals." said Gross.

The dogs are expected to survive, but rescuers said it's important other people don't fall into similar traps and donate to a group that may not be legitimate.

"Oh absolutely. Immediately, immediately they would have seen there was a problem," said Gross.

Most of the dogs have been taken out of state for treatment and they will be available for adoption there.

The investigation into the group and Sanchez is still ongoing.
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