A 56-year-old Seaford man is facing more than 400 charges related to an animal-cruelty case in which state animal-control officers discovered 43 dead dogs and rescued 32 other animals from a property near Seaford.
Donald Eilander was arrested Oct. 13 and faces 449 charges, including felony counts of animal cruelty, according to a press release from the Office of Animal Welfare. Officials said he was released on bail. Court documents show Eilander’s bail was set at $77,150 unsecured.
Court documents show that on Oct. 8, animal-control officers met with a family member at the property, who told officers that at the time, Eilander was in a medically induced coma after overdosing on prescription pills. Eilander's step-son said Eilander was in despair after losing his husband in August, and the family was “unaware of the deplorable conditions of the housing.”
Before Eilander's husband's death, the couple bred and showed the small dogs, the step-son told authorities. He said, according to court documents, the couple had trouble rehoming puppies and ended up keeping them.
Office of Animal Welfare received a tip Oct. 8 about neglected animals on the property, prompting Delaware Animal Services to execute a warrant. The specific location of the property has not been released.
“The inhumane conditions that we found the animals in was absolutely appalling and is inexcusable,” Delaware Animal Services Chief Mark Tobin said. “It’s a miracle any of the animals survived, and we are grateful we could get there in time for those that needed help so desperately.”
After obtaining a search warrant, officers found dead and emaciated dogs in a large shed and a garage on the property, which were described as covered in feces. The animals had no food or water, court records state.
Dog remains also were found in garbage bags and old dog food bags. Five dogs were found inside the house in good condition, records show.
Charges against Eilander include cruelly or unnecessarily killing or injuring an animal, failure to have proof of the dogs being licensed or vaccinated for rabies, and other charges related to the care of the animals.
The surviving 30 dogs and one cat are recovering at Brandywine Valley SPCA's Georgetown campus. A press release from the Department of Public Health, which oversees the Office of Animal Welfare, stated one animal was euthanized, while 27 required emergency veterinary care.
Brandywine Valley SPCA said in a release the rescued dogs include a variety of small breeds, such as Bichon Frise, Shih-Tzu, Pekingese, terriers and poodles. They range in age from 2 to 10 years old, all were found to be severely emaciated and many have other related medical problems.
“Conditions at the property were horrific,” said SPCA CEO Adam Lamb. “It’s remarkable to see how friendly and trusting these dogs remain after everything they’ve been through. We’re doing everything in our power to help them recover and hope to have the opportunity to help them find loving forever families.
The Seaford Fire Department and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control also assisted. No additional information about the case is available at this time.
Anyone with information about this incident, or any other cases of possible animal cruelty, is asked to call 302-255-4646. To make a donation to Brandywine Valley SPCA, go to www.bvspca.org/seaford32, fundly.com/seaford32 or send a check to Brandywine Valley SPCA, 22918 Dupont Blvd., Georgetown, DE 19947.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.