Smell of death resulted in arrest of McAllen cousins; rescue of 94 animals

Cindy Ann Wells and Leticia Sanders

A call from a delivery driver “saying it smelled like death” and that dogs were howling inside a residence in the 3400 block of Ozark Avenue resulted in the arrest of two McAllen cousins who had 93 dogs and a cat inside a two story house, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The call came in at approximately 9:38 a.m. last Saturday and resulted in 94 counts of animal cruelty being brought against Cindy Ann Wells, 55, and Leticia Sanders, 54.

When police arrived, they could hear barking and howling and smelled a strong odor the initial officer believed to be decomposed flesh even before knocking on the door.

When EMS and the McAllen Fire Department arrived, their personnel also came to the conclusion that someone died inside the residence.

“At this point there was reason to believe dead individuals or someone needing assistance was inside,” the affidavit stated.

Police made entry through a side gate “and the smell of decomposed flesh got stronger.”

The affidavit said the officer walked to the rear of the residence and saw a small patio with a large amount of dog feces and urine stains.

Shortly after, Wells opened the front door and exited the residence.

She told police that the smell was from dog feces and said she and her cousin had about 15 dogs inside the residence.

“Cindy assured us the smell was only coming from the dog poop near the front door and she needed to clean it. Cindy and myself briefly opened the front door so she could escort me to Leticia,” the affidavit stated. “As soon as the front door was open the odor of decomposed flesh got stronger and I was greeted with approximately three dogs trying to get out of the home.”

As police walked through the house, they saw more dogs, which were dirty and surrounded by feces and urine stains on the floor.

“I determined it was unsafe for Cindy to escort me through her residence as the dogs could attack or likely spread diseases upon contact,” the affidavit stated.

The officer then arrested Wells and shortly after Sanders exited the residence.

She said she owned some of the dogs, but didn’t know how many. She claimed there were only 10 dogs inside the residence and then was arrested.

Still, the officer suspected someone may be dead inside the residence or in need of assistance, according to the affidavit.

Eventually, with assistance from Animal Control, the city of Mission’s health director who provided resources and the McAllen Fire Department, officials made forced entry.

“As I entered the residence I observed the living room to be covered in dog pop (sic) in all directions, with approximately 15 dogs,” the affidavit stated. “The dogs appeared to be stressed and covered in dog poop.”

As police moved through the residence, they continued to find more dogs and the conditions regarding feces and urine stains were throughout the residence.

Officers found dogs in rooms, on the stairs, in bathrooms, in the garage and throughout the residence.

“All of the rescued dogs were covered and or stained with feces,” the affidavit stated.

Both women remain held in the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center on $188,000 in bonds.


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