Extremely poor. Terrible. Not livable. They are simple words police used to describe a complex situation in an Elkhart home, where officers found at least 12 people- — including four children — living, along with at least 45 different animals
Police discovered the situation late Tuesday afternoon in the 500 block of West Jefferson Street after neighbors called to complain.
"The complaint was that there was a pit bull that was tied too close to the property line
, and was not allowing access to the neighbors and the alley area," said Elkhart Police Corporal Dennis Russell, who serves as the department's Animal Control Officer.
When Russell looked inside, he found something much more shocking.
"There was eight adults in the house with four children, and what I would call terrible conditions. Feces, cockroaches, carpet saturated with animal urine, and a strong ammonia smell
from the house itself," Russell said.
"I would call the conditions extremely poor," said Humane Society of Elkhart County Animal Control Officer Michael O'Hara. "There is insect infestation, trash, animals running loose.
"It's not a livable condition,"
But, there were 12 people living inside, along with dozens more animals. At least 35 of the animals are dogs. Most others are cats.
All four children are now staying with relatives. Three of the eight tenants in the home were also arrested on unrelated outstanding warrants.
No other charges were filed, but Russell says it's possible both animal cruelty and child neglect charges will be pending.
"The conditions of the house were ridiculous when we moved in,"
said Amy Bachman, whose children, ages 3, 7, and 10, were removed from the home by CPS. "This is not a puppy mill. We gave these animals a loving home. These are not just dogs. They're my babies."
Aside from fleas most are in fairly good health, said O'Hara, though several did show evidence of older, untreated injuries.
"It would appear they had not been to the vet for care in quite some time," said O'Hara.
Police and child protective services agreed, the home they toured Tuesday was no place for four children to be growing up.
Seabolt didn't argue otherwise.
"No. No," she repeated through tears, when asked if she disagreed with the agency's conclusion. "We had a lot of animals in there. We were trying to get rid of the animals."
"But, at the same time, like I explained to the CPS lady, what choice did I have?"
continued Seabolt. "If I didn't have a place for my daughter, if I didn't have a roof over my head, I would have lost her.
You know, you can't live out on the street with a child. So, what choice did I have?"
Failing to reach out for help, Seabold says, is her one big regret.
"I do regret that we let it get that far out of control with the animals," she said.