Authorities wore gas masks while searching a town of Onalaska property where they discovered children and emaciated animals living in squalor, according to court testimony.

Linda West, 74, pleaded not guilty Tuesday, and her daughter, 37-year-old Carol West, stood mute to the 29 crimes filed against each of them, including two counts of child neglect, six counts of felony mistreating animals and 21 counts of misdemeanor mistreating animals, all as party to the crime.

Authorities in October seized 44 rats, 16 horses, eight dogs and one cat from the Wests’ property at N5788 Hauser Road. Most were emaciated after having survived living in feces-laden locked plastic kennels or corrals without water, according to the complaint filed in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Carol West’s two children, ages 8 and 11, also lived at the house, which smelled overwhelmingly of urine and feces. An animal control officer choked on the odor, and deputies wore gas masks during a search of the property.

“There was rat feces and dog feces throughout the home,” La Crosse County sheriff’s deputy Rich Amundsen testified. “The West property was the worst property I’ve ever been in in my entire life.”

The county’s health department on Oct. 19 condemned the house, which authorities navigated using narrow paths through mounds of debris and garbage stacked to the ceiling. Authorities lifted the condemnation order Nov. 11 after the property met the minimum acceptable living standards, sanitarian Sam Welch said.

Authorities found 32 dead rats in a freezer along with food, and horses were standing in manure that was knee deep, Amundsen testified. One horse had hooves so overgrown that it struggled to walk, while another now suffers from a chronic breathing condition, animal control supervisor Kathy KasaKaitas testified.

The Wests in November filed suit against the county sheriff and animal control, challenging whether the animals were properly taken and held. The women also want a judicial order for their return.


Police and courts reporter

Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at or 608-791-8224.

(7) comments


Dust and vacuum!?!? Hahaha


If any judge gives either one or both of these either the children or even ONE animal back, he/she should be thrown off the bench and banned for life from being so much as a rat catcher.


OMG, other people knew about this place, why on earth didn't they call the police and human services on them. There were children in the house, where were the teachers, relatives, others that were aware of this mess on the phone? I don't get it, sometimes the human species is the worst on earth, get all living things out of that place and bulldoze it. Unbelievable. Mental Hospital is in waiting for them!


The home was re-inspected in Nov. and taken off the condemned status. No need to bulldoze just because it needed to be cleaned. As far as neighbors knowing about the mess, trespassing is also illegal and some of the neighbors don't understand that. As far as neglect and mistreatment goes, yep it sure looks like it. But the judge will look at all the facts, not just the ones we see and make his decision. In the meantime go dust and vacuum, never know when the neighbors are looking in your window.


Dust an Vacuum!!!!!

That is the most oblivious comment you will read all year folks!


The owner said she didn't think it was that bad. So I guess cleanliness is in the eye of the beholder. I might think your house is filthy compared to mine. It's where the line gets drawn. Evidently it cleaned up ok if it passed the next inspection. Meanwhile I'm going to finish with the vacuum, cause I think I saw some eyes at the window.


Some of the houses like this on the news in the Twin Cities had to be bulldozed because they were so containated. People think they are channeling the dead animals spirits. Totally nuts.

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