By Jeff Wagner

WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Police said a recent animal cruelty case is one of the worst they’ve seen in decades.

The owner of the dogs involved, Renee Anne Saiko, faces felony charges for mistreatment of animals. Court documents state the pets were living in a van parked outside in the middle of winter, and by the time police intervened one was already dead.

“It was just totally disgusting,” said Lt. Brian Sturgeon. He used that phrase more than once as he described the conditions the dogs were living in while in a parked car outside an apartment complex in March.

“As soon as he got out of the car, within 5 to 10 feet from [the van], the odor of urine and feces overwhelmed the officer,” he said.

Police recognized the van as belonging to Saiko.

In January, Sturgeon said police warned her about the danger of keeping dogs in a vehicle in the middle of winter. He said she was staying a different apartment complex at that time. Weeks passed by without seeing the van or hearing from Saiko.

He said when they spotted the van again outside a different apartment building in March, the conditions had worsened.

“These dogs were malnourished, ribs were sticking out, the hip bones were very visible. All the crates, the floor of the van contained urine and feces,” he said. “There were two dogs in a crate the size that held a small cat.”

One dog was dead, the four others were taken to the South St. Paul Animal Hospital.

Staff there said the dogs were nursed back to health and sent into foster care.

“They do not euthanize animals at that location which is great for us, great for the public,” Sturgeon said.

In the court documents, Saiko said she had fallen on hard times and also told police she couldn’t get inside the van because it was locked.

“The doors were unlocked, that’s how we got in we did not force our way into the van whatsoever,” Sturgeon said.

Saiko is in jail on $40,000 bond. Police said it’s possible the animals involved could have already been adopted out to new families.

Jeff Wagner