A Denver woman charged with numerous animal cruelty counts after 35 dogs were seized from her feces-covered home was known to Denver Animal Protection dating back three years, 9Wants To Know has learned.
According to court records, on two occasions in 2014 and 2015, Denver Animal Protection was called to the home for welfare checks, though officers never went inside.
“The owner had some conversations with us about what animals she had,” said Sgt. Joshua Rolfe with Denver Animal Protection. “If somebody denies us access on to their personal property, we have to abide by their constitutional right to privacy on that property and the only recourse that we have to invade that is to obtain a search warrant.”
58-year-old Marleen Puzak’s history with Denver Animal Protection is laid out in a court document filed by a Denver Animal Protection officer. He was asking to get a search warrant to enter the home in July.
Puzak’s arrest affidavit states in July 2017, officers finally entered her home and found 35 living dogs, mostly French Bulldogs, and 12 dead dogs in two different freezers. Investigators said the dogs lived in a feces-infested environment with urine-soaked floors.
Documents obtained by 9Wants To Know say that in April 2014, Denver Animal Protection received a welfare check complaint for Puzak’s home after hearing that 18 French Bulldogs were supposedly inside.
The officer who met with Puzak wasn’t able to enter the home, according to the report. No reason was stated in the paperwork as to why officers were not able to enter.
Puzak told the officer she owned four dogs and was watching the fifth for a friend. The document says the fifth dog was a dachshund-type animal.
The officer then issued Puzak a citation for failing to have the proper city licensing required, and for violations related to rabies vaccinations.
“That administrative citation is still in collections,” the court documents reads.
Denver Animal Protection received another complaint for Puzak’s home in July 2015.
“Eighteen dogs on the property living in ‘terrible’ conditions according to the reporting party,” the court record states.
Two officers responded and noticed a strong smell of feces.
When they contacted Puzak, she told them she was a foster home for a rescue. The name of the rescue organization is redacted from the court documents. Puzak told officers she had ten dogs at the home.
According to court records, Puzak did not allow the officers inside. The case was closed.
“Certainly, there were indications that there might be something going on back in 2014 and 2015,” Sgt. Rolfe said, “but it didn’t rise to the level where we had enough probable cause to go obtain a search warrant. Obviously that changed recently.”
Rolfe said investigators needed more evidence in this case to ask a judge for a search warrant. Because it was an open investigation, Rolfe couldn’t tell 9Wants To Know exactly what the police obtained, but said it was more than a citizen complaint and a bad smell at the home.
“The only thing any agency can do is to monitor that situation, see if there is anything that we can observe, as we’re driving by a property, or a neighbor can witness, or we get some video evidence of something occurring, that all leads to us being able to say OK, we have more and we’re able to move further with this investigation,” he said.
A July 3, 2017 complaint to Denver Animal Protection about 15 dogs living on the property appears to have started the criminal case that resulted in Puzak’s dogs being seized.
Two officers went to the home at that time, court records show. They could smell the feces and urine from about eight feet away. A cardboard type material covered all the windows, so the officers could not see inside.
On July 7, an officer spoke to a woman who said she was friends with Puzak and often met her at the dog park. The woman said Puzak would not let her or anyone into her home.
She also told investigators she recently met Puzak, who had two dogs with her, and that both dogs appeared unhealthy.
The woman also told police that every time she met Puzak, she smelled of urine and feces.
“I have reason to believe through my training and experience there are multiple animals living in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions,” the officer wrote when applying for a search warrant to enter Puzak’s home.
Investigators were finally able to go inside on July 7.
9Wants To Know has tried reaching out to Puzak with phone calls and emails, but has not heard back.
The multiple Frenchies taken out of a Puzak’s home are getting a lot of attention on social media. Two people have contacted 9Wants To Know, claiming the dogs are theirs.
They say Puzak was taking care of the dogs and showing them on their behalf.
Denver Animal Protection tells us so far none of the people claiming ownership have shown enough paperwork to establish that. That includes the ownership certificate for one dog, Champagne, also known as China, that's circulating on social media.
“That document, first of all, doesn't have the name of the dog as it's been relayed to us, either one of the names,” Rolfe said. “It does have two people listed on it, but the date is from a year and a half ago. It doesn't have a picture of the dog that we can compare to say it's the same animal.”
Rolfe also said, “In Denver the standard is 30 days of ownership, or 30 days of maintaining and caring for that dog. You're required to now license it in your name, vaccinate it and take over what the city terms ownership of the animal.”
Rolfe said four of the French bulldogs were microchipped. But only one of those chips was registered. The shelter told 9Wants To Know, if that rescue organization wants to talk about getting the dog back, the shelter is open to that.
This is a good reminder, microchipping your animal does not help anyone track down the ownership, if you don't register the chip.