New worries at accused animal hoarder's house

New worries at accused animal hoarder's house »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Neighbors said Monday that they are worried about a home in central Bakersfield where a woman was found this spring with more than 60 animals in deplorable conditions.

Just last Friday, Rene Potter pleaded no contest to one charge of animal cruelty. Neighbors now say at least one dog has been seen in the yard of the house, which has also been condemned.

On Monday morning, Eyewitness News saw a medium-sized, brown dog in the back yard at in the 100 block of Dixon Avenue. In the driveway, two men and woman appeared to working near a pickup truck.

A reporter asked to speak to Potter, but the one man said she didn't have anything to say. The woman yelled out she didn't want to talk and ducked around the side of the house. That was apparently Potter.

The 40-year-old Potter was arrested in mid-May after officers found 60 dogs and cats, plus a rat and snake at the house. She was originally charged with five counts of felony animal cruelty, and one charge of willful cruelty to a child. Four of the animal charges were dismissed.

On Friday, Potter entered no contest pleas to both the child cruelty and animal cruelty charges. According to court records, she was given four years probation for the child cruelty count, and ordered to complete counseling and parenting classes, and to get psychiatric care.

On the animal cruelty charge, the court records show Potter is "prohibited from owning any animals."

A reporter asked the man in Potter's driveway whether they had animals at the house, he declined to comment.

But a neighbor said she's seen the dog and three cats. "I'm worried they won't get fed again, and water," Heather Reynolds told Eyewitness News. "Like before."

In May, Kern County Animal Control officers told Eyewitness News they found sick animals with conditions like severe upper respiratory infections, skin problems, and many were underweight.

Reynolds said conditions in the house had really worried neighbors. "It was nasty, very dirty," she said. "The smell, it was terrible."

Some neighbors are also concerned people are back living in the condemned house. An orange sticker is still on the front door, stating the house is unsafe to occupy.

"I know what it says," the man in the driveway said. He denied anyone was living there.

Reynolds has doubts. "There's cars there 24-seven," she said. "There's someone always there."

Not only is the house condemned, but there's no power. A dismantled utility box can be seen at the back of the house.

"No one's supposed to be living there," Kern County Code Compliance supervisor Chris Hengst told Eyewitness News. He mentioned not only the power being off, but conditions in the house.

In May, code officers told Eyewitness News they found a lot of animal feces and urine. The bathroom was not operational, according to the officers, and there was a lot of trash and debris inside.

Hengst said an officer had been to the house recently, when Potter had asked about moving back into it. Hengst said the officer explained what needed to be done, and he was told repairs are being made.

There are boxes and bags stacked up outside the house, and what appear to be piles of building materials. Hengst said if anyone thinks people may be living in the condemned house, a call should be made to the Kern County Sheriff's Department.

As for the dog seen in the back yard, a Kern County Animal Control spokeswoman said one of their officers would check on that situation. Animal control will contact the probation department to see if there's a violation of Potter's probation.

At Friday's hearing, she was also ordered to make various restitution payments, perform community service, and submit voluntarily to any searches to check on the welfare of children or animals in her care.

"The animals, that's my main concern," Reynolds said, but she's also worried about the condemned house. "I'd like to see it all just get boarded up and code take over, and do whatever can be done with it."