Two El Dorado County women enter guilty pleas in animal cruelty case

Multiple dogs had their mouths taped shut to keep them quiet.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – Two El Dorado County women, Jennifer Cowles, 48, and her mother Adele Painter, 71, of El Dorado, have pled guilty to animal cruelty charges, in a case where multiple animals were exposed to inhumane conditions and severe neglect.

The guilty pleas were entered into El Dorado County Superior Court on April 19.

The animals involved in the case — including multiple dogs whose mouths were duct taped shut to keep them quiet, forcing them to go for extended periods of time without water, and at least one horse that was severely malnourished — were removed by El Dorado County Animal Services and given shelter and needed medical care.

Jennifer Cowles

“What these animals endured was horrific,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of El Dorado County Animal Services. “Thankfully, we were able to intervene, provide assistance to them, and bring resolution to this case.”

According to Brzezinski, Cowles pled guilty to one felony count of animal cruelty and Painter to a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge. In addition to both being ordered by the court to not possess any animals for 10 years, Cowles will be on two years formal probation, Painter on one year summary probation, and both are subject to search and seizure, and restitution to Animal Services. They are also required to notify Animal Services within 48 hours of any change in their address.

Adele Painter

The case originally began as a commercial kennel investigation in October 2020 when the two women, suspected of running a puppy mill, were issued multiple County citations for operating without a commercial kennel license, allowing their horses to run loose, and neglecting to provide water for multiple animals, including livestock.

Follow up checks were conducted by El Dorado County Animal Services, and in June 2021 with the execution of a search warrant, Animal Services found evidence of cruelty and severe neglect, including dogs with duct tape around their mouths; all the dogs had new wounds and past scarring on their muzzles from continuously being taped over and over again. Evidence of malnourished animals and a horse that was starving, 300 pounds underweight and needed immediate veterinary treatment to prevent death, and other inhumane conditions, were also found, along with records of illegal sales of the puppies. Animal Services removed the animals from the property — a total of 17 animals (8 dogs, 5 goats, 1 sheep, and 3 horses) — and provided for their needed care.

In October 2021, after Cowles and Painter had been arraigned, a follow up search was conducted to determine if Cowles and Painter were complying with their court ordered conditions of release. It was determined that they were concealing seven dogs on their property on Goldorado Trail, in the town of El Dorado. Two adult dogs were stashed in trash cans and two litters of puppies were dumped in the woods behind the house in an attempt to hide the dogs from Animal Services. These animals were seized and provided care by Animal Services.

“Thankfully, these individuals will no longer have animals in their possession,” said Brzezinski. “We’d like to express our gratitude to our agency partners who helped us bring resolution to the case. Many thanks to El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Whyte and the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, specifically District Attorney Vern Pierson for his continued support of animal crimes prosecution; Detective Chris Macres and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office; Crossroads and Loomis Veterinary Hospitals; and Animal Services Officer Jessica Rorick and all of the El Dorado County Animal Services officers and shelter staff who provided assistance and care of these neglected animals.” Brzezinski also thanked volunteer Marianne Cann, who gave special care to the starving horse to bring her back to good health.

According to Brzezinski, all of the animals initially removed from the property have since recovered and been placed with new homes and/or animal welfare partners. The dogs and puppies removed in October of 2021 will be placed up for adoption once they have been cleared by the Animal Services veterinarian and are ready for adoption.

Multiple dogs had matted fur.
A horse was severely malnourished.

Source: El Dorado County

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