By MARGARET THOMPSON
WARREN - Five dogs and four kittens - all dead - were removed in bags by the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County on Wednesday from the property of Tiffany Charlton and Mike Kelley.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Margaret Thompson
Dead dogs are carried in black plastic trash bags by members of the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, left to right, Michelle Goss, Debbie Agnostinelli and Michelle Barnhart.
Debbie Agnostinelli of the Animal Welfare League described the scene as "pretty grim" when she and others from the league came out to the house in the morning.
They found the dead dogs on couches inside the house, which was full of feces and garbage, she said. The dead kittens were in a crate outside.
The Animal Welfare League, which was called on a complaint, also removed one dog from the house for assessment.
Michelle Goss, humane investigator, said she arrived at 2518 Hamilton St. S.W. with police and a representative of Sunshine Inc., the nonprofit that is selling the house to Charlton on a land contract.
"It's just disgusting," Goss said. "It's hard to describe. I don't think you ever get used to it - seeing dead animals, especially when you're an animal lover."
Goss said she believes the dogs starved to death and noted that the house was "full of needles."
Megan Hartford lives next door with her fiance and two children. Despite being friends with Charlton from childhood, Hartford said she had no idea about the situation. Hartford said she hadn't seen Charlton for two days and that the water and gas have been off in the house for the last two days.
"I thought everything was good and then this," Hartford said. "One gentleman said there was a half-eaten dog on the couch."
Hartford said people bring stray dogs to Charlton to care for, but she said "at some point, you have to learn to say no."
Neither Kelley nor Charlton was at home to comment. Hartford said Charlton has not been answering any phone calls.
David Gearin has been living in a camper behind the house for the past month. He said the dogs were still alive when he moved in. He only entered the house one time to use the bathroom but said that it was disgusting, so he never went inside again. Gearin said he knew that Charlton was told to get rid of some of her dogs, so when he didn't see them rush to the window anymore he assumed they were just gone, not dead.
Gearin said sometimes he and the neighbor would help feed the dogs, and one time they discovered a dead dog outside that they had assumed was asleep.
"I never made it my business," Gearin said.
Rosalyn Lampley is program director of Sunshine Inc., a nonprofit that provides housing for low-income families. She said that Charlton moved into the house in February and paid rent for three months before she stopped paying around May.
Lampley was at the residence Wednesday with others from the organization to post eviction notices on the house after receiving calls from the Animal Welfare League and police.
Lampley said she believes the residents come and go from the house and may only be using it for scrap, noting that the gutters and everything valuable has been removed from the house.
Randall Charlton, who lives next door and who Lampley said has been a good client of Sunshine Inc., said he is Tiffany's father. He said he is not on good terms with her and has not seen her for three weeks.
A sanitarian from the Warren Health Department was also sent to the house Wednesday morning.
The Animal Welfare League left a note on the house door and Goss said the next steps will be examinations of the animals to determine their cause of death. This could be followed by legal actions, which she said she would like to file for each animal found.
This is not the first time Charlton has been involved with animal abuse allegations. She was given until Sept. 28 of this year to reduce the number of dogs in her house, which had been 11, down the the legally allowed maximum of four by the Warren Deputy Health commissioner.