Attorney and Wife Plead Guilty in Animal Cruelty Case

An attorney and his wife who had about 140 dogs taken from their home in a gated community in Orange pleaded guilty Friday to animal cruelty and were immediately sentenced to 90 days in jail, but the punishment was suspended if they clear probation successfully.

Edward Reitkopp, 70, and his wife, Josephine Giametta Reitkopp, 69, pleaded guilty to a felony count each of animal cruelty and a misdemeanor count of failing to care for animals. They were both placed on two years of formal probation, according to court records.

The dogs were removed from the defendants’ home in the 3800 block of East Woodbine Avenue at the end of May 2019 by Animal Care officials, Lt. Phil McMullin of the Orange Police Department said when they were cited.

“I don’t know how people lived in that home, the smell was so disgusting,” McMullin said at the time.

“The house was pretty empty in terms of furniture” as the dogs were given free rein throughout, McMullin said.

“The heroes of the day were the people who had to go inside and get the dogs out,” McMullin said of Animal Care workers.

An anonymous tip to police led investigators to the home, McMullin said.

McMullin said 136 dogs were taken from the filthy conditions, but Jessica Novillo of Animal Care said it was more than 140.

Reitkopp was an attorney for a Cerritos firm who focused on labor and employment issues. His license to practice law is now inactive..

Orange police said they were contacted by animal care officials about 2:20 p.m. May 30, 2019, after an anonymous tip of possible animal cruelty. The residents allowed officers to enter the home and conduct a welfare check on the animals.

The dogs were all small breeds, mostly Shih Tzus and Maltese poodles, McMullin said. It appeared some of the dogs were breeding as “there were a couple of fresh litters upstairs,” McMullin said.

“Some had matted hair, some looked skinnier than others and some looked shaken and scared,” McMullin said of the dogs.