Two El Dorado County women plead guilty in animal cruelty case

Several dogs had their mouths shut to silence them.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Two El Dorado County women, Jennifer Cowles, 48, and her mother Adele Painter, 71, of El Dorado, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges, in a case where several animals were exposed to inhumane conditions and gross neglect.

The guilty pleas were entered in El Dorado County Superior Court on April 19.

The animals involved in the case – including several dogs whose mouths were taped shut to keep them quiet, forcing them to go long periods without water, and at least one severely malnourished horse – were removed by El Dorado County Animal Services and shelter and necessary medical care.

Jennifer Cowles

“What these animals went through was horrific, said El Dorado County Animal Services Chief Henry Brzezinski. “Fortunately, we were able to intervene, provide them with assistance and bring a solution to this case.”

According to Brzezinski, Cowles pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty and Painter to one count of animal cruelty. In addition to both being sentenced by the court not to own animals for 10 years, Cowles will be on formal probation for two years, Painter on summary probation for one year, and both will be subject to a search, seizure and return to animal services. They are also required to notify Animal Services within 48 hours of any change of address.

Adele Painter

The case originally began as a commercial kennel investigation in October 2020 when the two women, suspected of running a puppy mill, received multiple county citations for operating without a commercial kennel license, allowing their horses from running free and neglecting to provide water for several animals, including cattle.

Follow-up checks were conducted by El Dorado County Animal Services, and in June 2021, with the execution of a search warrant, Animal Services found evidence of cruelty and gross neglect, including dogs with tape around their mouths; all the dogs had new wounds and faded scars on their muzzles from being taped over and over again. Evidence of malnourished animals and a starving horse, underweight by 300 pounds and requiring immediate veterinary treatment to prevent death, and other inhumane conditions, was also found, along with recordings illegal sales of puppies. Animal Services removed the animals from the property – a total of 17 animals (8 dogs, 5 goats, 1 sheep and 3 horses) – and provided the care they needed.

In October 2021, following the arraignment of Cowles and Painter, follow-up research was conducted to determine whether Cowles and Painter complied with court-ordered release conditions. It was determined that they were hiding seven dogs on their property on Goldorado Trail in the town of El Dorado. Two adult dogs were hidden in trash cans and two litters of puppies were dumped in the woods behind the house in an attempt to hide the dogs from animal services. These animals were seized and cared for by Animal Services.

“Fortunately, these people will no longer have animals in their possession,” Brzezinski said. “We would like to express our gratitude to our partner agencies who helped us solve the case. Many thanks to El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Ryan Whyte and the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, especially District Attorney Vern Pierson for his continued support of animal crime prosecutions; Detective Chris Macres and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office; Crossroads and Loomis Veterinary Hospitals; and Animal Services Officer Jessica Rorick and all of the El Dorado County Animal Services Officers and shelter staff who provided assistance and care to these neglected animals. Brzezinski also thanked volunteer Marianne Cann, who took special care of the starving horse to bring him back healthy.

According to Brzezinski, all of the animals initially removed from the property have since recovered and been placed in new homes and/or animal welfare partners. Dogs and puppies removed in October 2021 will be put up for adoption once they have been cleared by the Animal Services Veterinarian and are ready for adoption.

Several dogs had matted fur.
A horse was suffering from severe malnutrition.

Source: El Dorado County