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Mother, Son Plead Guilty to Abandoning 30 Dogs

The Rancho Santa Margarita pair get probation, counseling and suspended jail sentences for packing 30 small dogs into two crates and leaving them at an Orange County park.

A woman who hoarded more than two dozen dogs and was accused with her son of abandoning them pleaded guilty Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court.

Flordeliza Aguilo Escano, 59, of Rancho Santa Margarita had been charged with three misdemeanors: animal abandonment, mistreatment and neglect. She faced a maximum 18 months in jail and $3,000 in fines.

Escano pleaded guilty to all three counts and was sentenced to three years probation, restitution to Orange County Animal Control and—if she violates probation—180 days in jail. She was also ordered to undergo intensive mental health counseling for one year and is not allowed to own, live with or possess any animals.

Her son, James Francis Alambra, 26, of Rancho Santa Margarita, pleaded guilty to animal abandonment and was sentenced to three years probation, restitution and—if he violates probation—60 days in jail. A count of animal mistreatment was dismissed.

Alambra was ordered to undergo three months of mental health counseling and is also barred from contact with animals.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Malone described the dogs—26 of them—as having hair that was so matted it was causing them "pain and distress," and that many had ingrown toenails, weren't properly fed, and were smeared with feces.

"The mother is a hoarder and the son wanted to move in with her and that's why they wanted to get rid of the dogs," Malone said.

According to Malone, Escano had 33 dogs, but she was so embarrassed by the appearance of four of them that they weren't abandoned. Five dogs were pregnant, and all the litters—as well as the 33 dogs—were adopted, "so it's a happy ending."

Neither of the defendants were represented by an attorney. Escano has a background as a trained psychiatric nurse, Malone said.

The charges stemmed from a series of events in May that led Alambra to come forward to authorities after two crates filled with small dogs were left at a Laguna Hills park. The story made headlines at the time.

According to the district attorney, on the afternoon of May 20, Escano and her son drove a truck into the parking lot of San Remo Park, where they unloaded two crates, one containing 14 dogs and another containing 16 dogs. The defendants were accused of cramming the crates so tightly that the dogs were stacked atop one another without food or water.

They placed the crates next to trees near the road before abandoning them. Alambra's Toyota 4Runner wouldn’t start, so they left the scene after being picked up by a woman in another vehicle, who was unaware of the animal abandonment. The 4Runner was left behind.

Park visitors found the abandoned crates and contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The recovered dogs showed signs of neglect, including matted fur and ingrown toenails.

Alambra contacted authorities after the story made headlines. He told deputies he was trying to save the dogs by removing them from the home of his mother, who he said was a hoarder.

Although Malone said Tuesday that "all 33 animals were nursed back to health," at the time the dogs were abandoned, director of OC Animal Care Ryan Drabek said the dogs were in decent condition: “They are pretty good, considering. There were some with pretty severely matted hair and a couple with minor abrasions, but we have not had to do significant medical treatment.”

Claudia September 26, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I sure hope that these poor innocent animals are each given a chance to find a good home and not just brought to a "kill shelter" and euthanized!!!
April Josephson September 26, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Claudia, these dogs were at the Orange County shelter during the investigation, but have all already been adopted. The shelter worked closely with the rescue community to make sure that the dogs were properly cared for and socialized as much as possible so they would be given the best chance possible of finding homes. A few of the moms and pups were transferred to other local shelters that were willing to help too. It was an amazing effort overall. Some of the dogs even went to new homes out of state. I'm glad to hear that the court ordered counseling rather than jail time. I believe that hoarding is a disease that should be treated. I've seen many animal rescuers take on more than they can handle, and end up doing more harm to the animals than good by becoming hoarders.
RealOC September 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
wow this guy gets 18 months behind bars almost 2 years for this ? yet the newport man that did a hit and run and killed that innocent biker a couple weeks ago gets only 8 years ? Thats rediculous !!
ana September 27, 2012 at 10:02 AM
We got a Maltese from there at a rescue she oz so sweet
Lil-Marty December 17, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I once rescued a dog from a shelter. It was a cross between a Bulldog and a Shitzu. Lil Marty Leisure World

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