WINCHESTER, Calif. (KABC) -- Seventy-six dogs were seized at a homeless encampment by animal control authorities during a large-scale operation in Riverside County on Wednesday morning.
Riverside County Animal Services officials say all of the dogs were owned by one man.
"He's kind of bounced around from property to property," said Lt. Lesley Huennekens with Riverside County Animal Services. "(He's) kind of what we call a classic hoarder.
"He doesn't abuse or neglect the dogs, but he's a classic hoarder, and unfortunately we've tried to help him but he refuses to take any of our assistance."
The case began when Riverside County Code Enforcement got a complaint from the owner of a vacant stretch of land along Simpson Road in Winchester. Authorities determined there was a homeless encampment on the property, with four people living inside of it.
"They don't remove their trash, human waste is left behind," said Manny Acueto, a supervisor with Riverside County Code Enforcement. "You have to be careful where you're walking. At one encampment there's needles everywhere."
They also found a large number of dogs on the property. About half of them don't appear to be fixed, and all of them were living in kennels covered in tarps but still exposed to the extreme summer heat.
"For the most, the animals do have food and water, but it's not an ideal situation at all," said Huennekens. "Especially with this heat, tarps and small cages are not ideal."
Fifteen Riverside County Animal Services vehicles were used during the seizure. It took about two hours to remove all the dogs.
Four people were found to be living in the encampment. Authorities offered them services and told them they had to vacate the property.
Authorities say the owner of the animals is John Dunlap, and he has an extensive history with Riverside County Animal Services. They said he classified his setup as a rescue, but regardless, it's an unlicensed kennel. They say he was uncooperative with authorities, and was later taken to a nearby hospital for a mental evaluation.
The dogs were transported to the San Jacinto Animal shelter. The owner will have the chance to contest the seizure if he intends to try to get his animals back. If not, they'll soon be available for adoption.