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Sunday, Jan 19, 2014

County: Los Angeles

Disposition: Not Charged

Person of Interest: Cynthia Gudger

A woman who spent more than two years in jail for animal cruelty is now being investigated again for hoarding animals in terrible living conditions.

Pet owners are on edge after learning what was living behind locked windows and drawn shades of a low-income Venice rental apartment.

"The smell was overwhelming. It smelled like animal urine, feces, dead animals, sick -- it just smelled like horror," said neighbor Nancy Hancock.

Her neighbor in this low-income rental is Cynthia Gudger, a felon convicted in a notorious 2008 case of animal cruelty in Kern County. Investigators found 50 animals at her home living in filth. One had been chained to a cabinet. Five in the freezer were dead.

Gudger's record shows a life on the lam. Charged in Riverside with animal cruelty, she fled to Ventura County, then Kern County. She used aliases.

At one point she was found incompetent to stand trial and was placed in Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino. Two years later she was placed on probation for animal abuse. Neighbors say she relocated to Venice in 2011. They recall seeing her chasing feral kittens.

Then came the stench.

Hancock says Animal Control responded. Then came an animal-rescue group who she recorded seizing more than a dozen animals from the one-bedroom unit.

"In this particular case, there is an investigation that's ongoing," said Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services.

There are currently no charges.

Barnette said tips are the only way they can track suspected animal hoarders.

"They start getting a few too many animals. They can't say no because they want to help, and suddenly they're in over their head," said Barnette.

Neighbors say Gudger kept her pets hidden. Only the stench alerted them. Now Gudger faces more trouble.

Eyewitness News has learned that she is facing a perjury charge for lying on a DMV application. And in Kern County, the district attorney said he will determine whether Gudger has violated the terms of her probation.


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