Turns out it was even worse than we'd thought.
Reno Yohai, a five-time felon and child molester, did not have 34 pit bulls trapped inside his West Park home, on the border of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, as New Times reported two weeks ago ("In the Doghouse," Terrence McCoy, September 26). In fact, he had 46.
Inside a darkened house more cave than home, Yohai had stuffed pit bulls into cages everywhere: hallways, bedrooms, living room, and back and front yards.
Last week, pit bull activists showed up en masse at his home to rescue the dogs. He had offered all of them for adoption, so rescuers organized enough Good Samaritans to take all the canines off his hands. Most found immediate new homes, though eight were taken to Broward's Animal Care and Regulation.
The tears were almost immediate. None of the rescuers could believe the state of the home, fetid and baking in the afternoon sun. "We've all rescued animals, but this was the worst house we'd ever seen," explained Dahlia Canes, the director of the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. "Everyone was stunned. No one could hold back their tears; it was just too inhumane. I almost vomited — the stench was too much."
Yohai, who was released from prison in the early '00s after serving seven years on two counts of sexual battery on a minor, moved to West Park in 2007 and almost immediately began collecting pit bulls.
"I live in service of the breed," he told New Times on a recent afternoon while stroking a hairless pit bull on his lap. "Everything I do, I do for the breed."
He said those same words to rescuers when they rushed his home. He was saving the dogs, he told Canes and the others, not hoarding them. Nice try, buck.
For years, Yohai, mustached and slight, had similarly justified trapping so many dogs at his squalid hovel by saying it beat euthanasia at the local shelter. That might be true, but it was far from accurate.
Animal rescuers say most of the dogs exhibited bad skin conditions and urinary tract infections from drinking out of moldy water bowls and consuming raw chicken meat and bones as sustenance. "And that's just the physical trauma," Canes said. "There's also emotional trauma in these dogs. They were tethered, living in crates in their own feces."
But now, for the first time in years, they're free.