Linda West, a 74-year-old grandma, and Carol West, her daughter and a 37-year-old mom of two kids ages 8 and 11, of Onalaska, Wisconsin, are apparently facing a trial on a series of 29 shocking charges after the children were found in a home that one La Crosse County Sheriff’s deputy described in court as “the worst property I’ve ever been in, in my entire life,” according to a report in the La Crosse Tribune newspaper on Tuesday.
It was back on October 16 when deputies showed up at the home shared by the mom, and her mom, with the two kids. The sheriff’s department was investigating after neighbors complained that horses kept by the West women had been let loose and caused damage to their yard, according to a separate Tribune report from last week.
When they got to the property, they were overwhelmed with the odor of urine and feces — and investigators were forced to wear gas masks as they subsequently searched the West home. When one representative of a local Humane Society entered the home, “she started to choke” from the powerful and intolerable fumes from the urine and feces throughout the dwelling, court documents said.
They found a dwelling that, in addition to being in a state of complete disarray with debris filling rooms and even the shower in the bathroom, held dozens of animals including 44 rats, many kept in cages, and three dogs confined to crates that were stacked on top of each other, allowing the dogs zero access to food or water, or any way to get out and exercise or relieve themselves outside of the crates, according to a WXOW-TV report.
The crates were loaded with feces from the confined dogs, who also appeared in an emaciated condition from lack of food.
According to sworn testimony by Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Amundsen, in addition to the 44 live rats in cages, investigators also found 32 dead rats stuffed into a freezer — a freezer in which the Wests also stored food.
Despite the extreme and horrifying condition of the home and the large number of neglected and mistreated animals inside and outside, Linda West told investigators that she felt the home “isn’t that bad,” according to the legal complaint against the women. Nonetheless, La Crosse County health officials condemned the home after the stomach-churning discoveries.
The investigators also found 16 horses confined to decrepit stables with no way to graze or obtain food, other than some hay which had developed large amounts of mold. The horses had no water and found moving around even inside the stables difficult, due to about two feet of mud and caked feces on the stable floor.
One cat was also seized from the home, and seven sheep believed also to have lived on the property had somehow disappeared.
Linda and Carol West appeared in La Crosse County Circuit Court on Tuesday to face 29 charges, including two counts of misdemeanor child neglect, 21 counts of misdemeanor animal mistreatment, and six felony charges of mistreating animals as well. If convicted, Linda West could spend the rest of her life behind bars, and Carol West could face a lengthy prison term as well.
Linda West pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, while her daughter Carol entered no plea in court. The following video report courtesy of WKBT TV contains further details on the grotesque case of alleged animal abuse and child neglect.
The sickening discoveries inside the West home should not have come as a surprise to neighbors or investigators. Complaints about the West family’s treatment of animals and the condition of their home date back to 1996, according to local law enforcement authorities. All of the animals found on the Linda and Carol West property were treated by veterinarians — though one horse may have to be euthanized due to the painful condition of its overgrown hooves, reports said.
[Featured Image by La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department]