Barking inside an abandoned house on Coffee Road led animal services staff Wednesday to discover four small dogs apparently left to fend for themselves.
The owner of the house, who went there to make some repairs, heard the barking and called authorities.
“It’s a vacant house,” Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said. “The neighbor said people had been coming and going.”
But nobody had been seen around the property, in the 3000 block of Coffee near Rumble Road, for a while.
“We don’t know how long (the dogs) had been in there,” Graves said. “The next-door neighbor said the activity in the house had stopped. One night? Two weeks? We don’t know.”
The dogs, which look like Chihuahuas, appear to be healthy, she said, though the house was littered with feces.
The animals did have food, animal control officer Chris Haubrich said. “They were scared and evasive,” Haubrich said. “It was fear aggression.”
The homeowner, Bill Lemmons of Modesto, said he has had the property since 1990. He said he had gone to court in September to evict the tenants, but they returned immediately and became squatters.
He said he contacted the police several times, but the tenant, who has an elementary school-age daughter living with her, continued to squat in the home. “I’d drive by and see the (coverings on the) windows had been moved,” Lemmons said. “They just wouldn’t get out.”
There also has been at least $10,000 in damage to the home. The appliances and electrical are gone, he said. There are holes in the walls and doors.
Graves said police routinely respond on such calls and order squatters to leave. But if there is no property manager or owner present at the time, and the police can’t prove the people don’t belong in the home, they can’t push the eviction.
Haubrich took the dogs to the county animal shelter on Cornucopia Way, where they will be held for several days before being tested for health and temperament, then put up for adoption.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra and columnist Jeff Jardine contributed to this report.