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ODOR LEADS TO PROBE OF KENNEL RESCUER DENIES WRONGDOING.

Byline: Brad A. Greenberg Staff Writer

RIALTO - Charlotte Spadaro wanted to open an animal rescue, but she couldn't afford to in Beverly Hills, where she used to be mayor.

So she and some investors headed east.

They started in Fontana and when they outgrew that shelter in 2002, they moved to nearby Rialto.

The brown stucco house belonged to the dogs. Spadaro stayed there only occasionally. A man stopped by once a day to feed the 100 canines.

Spadaro doesn't remember when the Great Dane died and was stuffed in the freezer in the converted garage. She was unsure how many other dogs were in it when it failed over the weekend.

What was inside defrosted and decomposed.

The dogs in the one-story house and chain-link kennels outside had long produced a foul odor that gagged Barbara Org, who owns Org's Kennel next door.

But she and other neighbors knew this was different.

``It smells like death,'' she said Monday, standing downwind.

The Police Department responded Sunday after Joel Org, Barbara's son, reported the stench. Police and county health officials entered with oxygen masks.

They found refuse in the yard and a house full of trash, animal feces, cockroaches, mice and rats, neighbors said. Rialto police Lt. Tony Farrar, the supervisor on scene, didn't enter the house and wasn't sure what was inside. He said it was difficult to describe the ``extreme'' odor as anything other than a decaying animal.

Police are investigating possible animal cruelty, Farrar said. No problems with the living dogs were reported, but Spadaro was told to take a few to a veterinarian.

Spadaro, a real estate attorney, denied wrongdoing.

Spadaro said she wanted to bury the Great Dane in the back yard, but hadn't prepared the ceremony, so she stuck it in a freezer, something veterinarians tell pet owners to do if they can't immediately bury a dead animal.

In a phone interview, she said she is an ``animal activist'' who can't bear to see a dog suffer. She said she was too busy to give a reporter a tour of the house.

``I would not take a million dollars for any dog that is here,'' said Spadaro, who said she lives in Los Angeles but often stays in Rialto. ``I feel God sent me these dogs and I am going to take care of these dogs and do my best. If I have to go to the Supreme Court to fight for these dogs, I will.''

Rialto Police Sgt. Paul Wing said an investigation of Spadaro's rescue began several months ago after neighbors bombarded city officials and council members with complaints.

Spadaro has a permit to operate a kennel within city limits. That kennel does not limit the number of dogs on site as long as she breeds or boards.

Wing said it appears Spadaro is not operating a legitimate business. The city is looking into revoking her license, but may have some legal problems.

Carole Cheesman, who owns another kennel on the north side of Spadaro's, said the smell also has hurt her business.

``She is just collecting,'' Cheesman said. ``She doesn't believe anyone else will give them as good a home. I truly believe her heart is good.''

Ruth Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York, said people who collect dogs suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 20, 2005
Words:566
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