Man arrested after Kern County Animal Services finds 160 dogs in Tehachapi home

Members of the Kern County Animal Services on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, spend the day gathering 160 dogs from the home of Allen Lee, 69, of Tehachapi, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A man was arrested Tuesday morning in Tehachapi after Kern County Animal Services found 160 dogs at his home on Golden Star Boulevard.

Allen Lee, 69, is being held on $1.24 million bail. Animal Services Director Nick Cullen said his department is recommending 120 felony charges of animal cruelty or neglect.

Many of the dogs, Cullen said, were found in filthy conditions that posed a threat to their health.

The dogs that were seized are of varied age, size and breed. Many were puppies.

Neighbors in the area told Eyewitness News that Lee had an unusual number of dogs when he moved into the neighborhood years ago, but the number has grown exponentially. The dogs weren't fixed, neighbors said. They also believe Lee made a habit of taking in strays.

While clearly frustrated with the situation, more than one neighbor described Lee as a nice guy who simply couldn't stand parting with a dog. They believe he lost control of his pets long ago.

"We understand that sometimes things get out of control," Cullen said. "But there's times when we have to act in the best interest of the animals and hold somebody accountable."

Cullen said his department received a complaint March 20 that suggested a large number of dogs may be in poor condition. When officers went to the house, the odor was enough to request a search warrant from a judge. They returned Tuesday morning with about 10 trucks to take the dogs away.

The dogs remain Lee's property. Cullen said he will be billed for the care they receive at county shelters. It's possible he could get some or all of them back, depending on what happens in court.

Prior to their removal, neighbors say the dogs frequently got out of the backyard and roamed the area.

"It's a relief to finally have them come out and hopefully get these dogs out to loving homes, adopted, or whatever it is, to get them away from this kind of situation," said Derrell Wilson. "It's just ridiculous having (160) dogs."

Many of the people in the area who spoke to Eyewitness News wondered why it took the county so long to come. Many said they'd filed complaints.

Asked about the alleged slow response, Cullen said that all prior complaints for that address had to with "unleashed dogs," which is only a minor infraction and not sufficient cause to get a search warrant.

Previous tips didn't lead county workers to believe there could be dozens of animals at one address or that any of them may be in harm's way.

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