Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 4, 2010

Police rescue animals crammed in Palo Alto trailer

Seizure of 42 dogs and cats was one of biggest animal operations in city history

by Gennady Sheyner

More than 40 dogs and cats were seized from a Palo Alto trailer home last week in what the police are calling one of the largest animal-rescue operations in the history of the local animal shelter.

Police said they found the animals in the trailer home of Ana Ramos, a 56-year-old resident of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, during an investigation of a possible hit-and-run incident in the trailer park off El Camino Real. Officers noticed a strong animal stench and heard loud barking coming from several dogs within the trailer.

Police tried to get in to the building, but Ramos refused to let them in, police Lt. Sandra Brown said. When an animal-control officer arrived to investigate, Ramos allegedly pushed the officer and argued that she only owns eight dogs. The officer observed 12 dogs from the doorway, Brown said. The city's municipal code allows for a maximum of three dogs per household.

While holding two small dogs, Ramos allegedly resisted the officer's effort to take her into custody. Once she was restrained, police searched her 32-foot-long trailer home and found 25 dogs and 17 cats, including a group of cats crammed into a tiny bathroom.

The animal-control officer found only one box of food and a single water bowl in the trailer home, Brown said. Animal waste was scattered all over the floor, she said.

Police arrested Ramos and charged her with resisting arrest, assault on an officer and a myriad of charges relating to animal cruelty. The animals were taken to the Palo Alto Animal Services shelter, where they were recuperating this week. Some of the animals were underweight or dehydrated, while others suffered from urine burns, ear mites, ringworms and other ailments, police said.

One of the cats had to have rectal surgery shortly after arrival, according to Sandi Stadler, superintendent of Palo Alto Animal Services. The shelter, which typically houses about 75 animals during the summer, is currently accommodating all the animals and sorting out their medical conditions.

Stadler said the animals' ages, breeds and conditions range widely, with several appearing "in fair health." She said the shelter chose to keep many of the animals together because they're used to living as a social group.

"We didn't isolate them because that would have been hard on them mentally," Stadler said. "As we get into the swing of the things, things will ease up as some of the medical issues we're treating will become easier to deal with."

Stadler said last week's animal-rescue operation is the largest one she can recall involving cats and dogs. Several years ago, the shelter had to temporarily take care of 500 tiny turtles that were confiscated from a vendor at a local fair. The vendor allegedly didn't know that those turtles were too small to be sold legally, Stadler said.

Ramos has been released on bail prior to arraignment.

TALK ABOUT IT

What can be done about cases of hoarding, whether of animals or of goods? Share your opinion on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

Comments

Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:32 am

The people over at Animal Services are great. I'm bringing a cash donation over today to help out--anyone want to join me?


Posted by So sorry, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:35 am

My heart goes out to the animals. So sad. She probably thought she was doing them a favor.
Until we have responsible pet owners who aren't trying to make a buck off breeding animals, and responsible pet families... well the animals will continue to suffer. Just like the factory farmed animals who have it even worse.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

It makes me wonder what the neighbors thought of the stench and the noise. What a bummer that none of them turned her in. 40 animals is the biggest rescue in PA? That's kind of funny - PHS pulls big numbers in hoarding and cruelty cases, animals of all kinds. It's nice that these are big numbers to the PA shelter!


Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:55 am

I think this woman is probably mentally ill. Let's hope she gets some treatment and the authorities can try to keep her from starting the process all over again.


Posted by catndogluvr, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

Ms. Ramos sounds like a classic animal hoarder.


Posted by batatoz, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Chrisc, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

The suggestion of a donation to the shelter is an excellent idea. A concrete way to help these poor 40 animals.


Posted by Excuses, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

To get back to this story...hoarders hoard no matter what their economic status is, or the status of their neighbors. Hoarders hoard, and it's mostly women who hoard animals. It's a serious problem that makes the well-being of animals they hoard miserable much of the time. Since animals are considered property and there is a lot of leeway w/property, it's hard to catch and prosecute animal hoarders, to get them help and get the help to stick. Hoarders will continue their patterns no matter where they live. There are also people who are borderline animal hoarders, and both them and hoarders think they are rescuing these animal from worse fates. Initially, they often are. They will buy pet shop animals and consider that a rescue, for example. They often start off as seemingly normal pet owners, but as time goes on, their behavior changes, and so does the level of care the animals receive. In my informed view, it's not the number of animals that they own, but it's the environment in which the animals live, the level of care that they receive and the owner's perspective towards the animals that are important factors. I grew up w/lots of pets, but we weren't hoarders. Animals, when treated right, are a connection to so much, but they are also a responsibility. Hoarders don't have a healthy handle on taking good care of animals, to put it mildly.

Animal hoarding is a serious problem in our culture, and it causes great suffering and a fair amount of expense. It needs to be taken very seriously and hoarders need to be monitored as do other criminals with mental illnesses.


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Jun 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

Hmmm, you are 'right-on' in both your comments! Where were the neighbors???? And yes, it is 'animal hoarding'.
This happens to strike close to home right now. I live next to a hoarder in my apt - and I'm on top of management about it, but they still haven't taken the type of action I would like (like clean it up!). The smell is already overpowering - and fortunately there are no animals.


Posted by Moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm

She needs to be prosecuted and forbidden to own animals ever again. Her trailer should be condemned. The Humane Society of America website has info on animal hoarding. It is a mental illness. And yes, donations to help with the care and placement of these cats and dogs is a wonderful idea, as is volunteering time to help socialize them.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Hi YIMBY. To answer your questions: one of the neighbors, who was borderline w/animals, moved. We have mutual friends and while she has too many animals still, it's not the way it used to be and they're pretty well cared for. The other hoarder only hoards stuff, not animals. She has a responsible job, works a lot of OT, so it took awhile for the hoarding to manifest. I haven't been in her place for awhile, for obvious reasons, but she's in better health than she used to be, so perhaps it's gotten better.

I had a friend who moved from a PA apt. last year, off of Calif. Ave., and there was a hoarder type there. He didn't have animals, just nasty, stinky stuff - including in his car. We joked about him being a serial killer. I think that in multiunit dwellings it can be a health hazard, not to mention, a divestment for the landlord. Truly awful.

I have worked with animals professionally and personally my whole life and have learned a fair amount about hoarders/collectors. I'd say my former neighbor was more of a collector.

Is the smell from your neighbor's something you can smell in the halls or elsewhere outside of their unit?


Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I would like to point out that there is a way to help these animals and the shelter more directly than by donating money, though I won't denigrate the donations. You can also sign up to foster an animal or two, nursing it back to health(if need be) or letting babies grow up (if need be) or getting them used to being handled and loved by humans (often needed) and returning them with a profile of what they are like to help them get adopted. It is a great way to help out, and the shelter needs that kind of help too.

We currently have two kittens at our house, not yet big enough to be adopted out.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm

When and if these animals are available for foster, it's a good way to go. It takes a commitment, but you're not alone. Usually, the shelter pays for food, vet visits and training. They are great partners. Fostered pets are "sexier" and usually adopt out faster. I've had many through the years and it's always an adventure. Of course, you run the risk of going from being a foster home to being the adopter home :-)


Posted by Jania, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I wonder where these animals came from. I lost a cat I believe was taken from my yard just down the street from the trailer park. He was very friendly. I have seen signs as I walk my dog for other people looking for other missing cats in Barron Park. Where was she getting these animals? I will make an effort to check if my cat is amoung any of those found.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Jania - that makes it potentially much more sinister! I hope you get some answers fast!


Posted by humanity, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

How about a little more charity towards the human in this story? This is definitely not the behavior of a mentally healthy person, and yet some posts are saying things like "she needs to be prosecuted and forbidden to own animals ever again." I hate to think of the mental space a person is in who does this. Lots and lots of concern for the animals and so little for her. I feel sorry for BOTH of them, and suspect the animals will fare better than she will, now.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:06 pm

These animal hoarding stories are always so disturbing. Thank heavens the animals were found while still alive. I can't help wondering why no neighbors had phoned about this woman. Surely someone was aware of the noise and stench. Well, may she get the mental help she needs, and the animals recover and get good homes. And a big thank you to the animal control officers!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I save my compassion for people whose problems don't cause so much damage to others. Animals don't have a voice, so we have to keep an eye on them. It's pathetic that it took a hit & run investigation for this situation to be revealed. She doesn't sound like a nonviolent victim to me, either, as she pushed an ACO. She does sound unstable and with the ability to cause animals harm. So she shouldn't be allowed to be responsible to lives that she's already shown she isn't taking care of. Allowing hoarders animals again is NOT the way to go. Would you be willing to risk your beloved pet in her care?

It's nice that you have compassion for her, but it's not a required that we do.

As for prosecution, it's out of our hands. But there are a number of charges, and she clearly has a number of issues. I draw the line when someone's issues harm, endanger or injure others - and as humans, we have the responsibility that goes along with privilege of caring for those who don't have rights or a voice.

It's the state's job to ensure that this woman gets help - I'll use my compassion elsewhere and am glad that you use yours where you see fit.


Posted by Maria, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:06 am

Where was the owner/manager of the trailer park? This situation exemplifies the neglect of the owner/manager of the trailer park. He is unresponsive and sometimes threatening to those complaining about conditions in the trailer park. He refuses to address such issues as parking in the fire lanes, destructive teenage gangs, subletting and overcrowding of trailers, which overtaxes the park, which was not built to house six to ten people per single wide trailer. constant noise problems, people running businesses out of their trailers, such as a car wash, an auto repair shop, laundry services and day care services, contrary to state law. The state requires a resident manager and there is none. The city wishes to ignore the trailer park and its issues, mainly refusing to get involved. They use the excuse of "its private property" when complaints are called in to the PAPD. The city and the owner/manager each treat trailer park residents as an underclass in Palo Alto.


Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

PA Animal Services has a Facebook page that you can join and keep up to date on all the latest. You can easily donate money to them through the mail, or better yet, drop by with some cash and OLD TOWELS. They need as many as they can get. Old sheets and blankets are good too, but old towels are really needed. They also have a foster system you can get in on, but you have to be ready to really get involved, and they're very careful about all their volunteers (yay!).


Posted by I see the nightmare there..., a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm

You are not kidding about not having a resident manager at the Trailer Park. The people who own that place are just trying to suck it dry before the eventual demise of all those "homes" will have to be moved and be otta there.........

Look up Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on the internet. You will see problems that they have had in the past. So many problems still exist with no one in control of human decency.

There is a problem there as the park is the lowest rental place in Palo Alto. People are just trying to get shelter~ being low income comes with a lot of problems (which some of those living there find it hard to deal with.) The County should man the place and serve those who need help. This is one underserved group of people living with a landlord who couldn't care less except for the income.


Posted by Nan, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm

I think what Maria said can give us some insight as to why no one reported the lady. Nobody wants to call the cops if they are breaking the law and it sounds like that is all too common in that trailer park.

I hope those who have lost animals will hear about this and go check to see if any ended up with her.


Posted by humanity, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Dear Hmmm -because I comment on the lack of compassion/concern for an obviously troubled fellow being, you assume I'm advocating allowing her to collect pets? She manifestly can't take care of them, and probably not of herself, either. It appears she was living in that awful place. It's a shame there's no place she can go for the loving care we hope the animals will find. And whoever heard of "required" compassion. Do you also only "save" your compassion for good animals, or are you more generous with them - you're just stingy when it comes to people?


Posted by CatFosterMom, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 4, 2010 at 1:20 am

Jania (and all pet owners) please get your pets chipped, especially if they go outside. Mine are, even though mine are indoors only (I live on the 2nd floor) because you just never know what's gonna happen.
There have been some recent cases in Los Altos where outdoor cats went missing. One of the owners was very persistent, and called every shelter in the Bay Area. They found their cat in a shelter in Morgan Hill! The cat had been trapped and turned in with a group of other cats. Evidently, the shelter didn't ask where they had been trapped and assumed they were local. So, someone trapped a bunch of cats in the neighborhood, and took them to a shelter far away probably hoping that they would never come back.
I hope the PA shelter checks for chips.
If you have lost a cat, and it had a chip, be sure it is registered at your current address so you can be found!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2010 at 11:08 am

I'm much stingier w/my compassion when it comes to people who harm other beings. It's my preference. I never said you were advocating the collection of pets. That's your interpretation of what I wrote. Do you believe she should be allowed to have animals again? In my experience w/animals and hoarders, hoarders do the same thing over and over to the animals. They need to be stopped, but there of course isn't enough oversight, which is why they do it again and again.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2010 at 11:13 am

Maria - I am so sorry for what you have had to put it w/in that mobile home park. It sounds awful. Most renters in most cities are often treated as 2nd class citizens - because the cities denote them as such via their rights and the laws. Whichever renters are lower income also creates an underclass, which of course is always ignored.

One good thing about EPA - w/rent control, renters have more of a voice. Rent control has it negative side, but if a tenant has a legit complaint, there are legal options to pursue, with support and structure built in. I have always gotten answers to my tenant questions and when I've pursued violations of my rights, I've gotten incredibly useful help.

If anyone there is motivated, going to county housing w/a list of complaints might help.


Posted by BVtrash, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

As a 5 year resident of the trailer park, I was totally unaware of this particular animal problem, but I don't live on the same alley as they do. The landlord is actually a slumlord team. He and his son, a former All American Market produce manager, have made it clear that if you complain, they'll evict. Sometimes they just laugh at you. I've experienced both techniques myself more than once. They only take action when there's an emergency, or when the state inspectors get around to doing their job, like this year. The last inspection was at least 10 years ago. Buena Vista's large illegal immigrant population ensures most tenants won't complain about anything to anyone. Makes it easy for the landlords to stay negligent and break state law as well as their own park rules! I see it every day and I've gotten the "private property" excuse from the police as well. There is an onsite "manager" but he's more like a janitor and doesn't understand enough English. Too bad the landlord can't be bothered to make their own self-induced ordeal a bit more pleasant and cooperative interaction for all.


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