Orange woman accused of dog hoarding has a ‘huge heart,’ colleague says
The colleague of an Orange woman accused of canine hoarding said Saturday he’s known her to be “overly generous,” but never imagined that could have extended to keeping more than 140 dogs at her home.
“Jo’s got a huge heart,” said Michael Simpfenderfer, who works with Josephine Reitkopp and her organization, Make California Great Again, a group that supports President Donald Trump.
“She would go rescue anybody and help them out,” Simpfenderfer said. “She’s just overly generous as a person and it made it easy for the people who worked with her.”
Jo Reitkopp would talk about dogs in general, he added, but there was no indication she and her husband Edward Reitkopp kept a large number of them at their house, which sits in a gated community in the Orange foothills. After the dogs were seized, authorities declared the home unliveable.
The couple were cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty, but more charges could follow. The case has yet to be turned over to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, but could be by Sunday evening, said spokeswoman Kimberly Edds.
Simpfenderfer said he hopes to hear the Reitkopps’ side of the story before rushing to judgment. He added Jo is religious and Ed has always been a loving and supportive husband.
“I love them today and I will love them tomorrow,” he said. “I hope we can learn from what happened. Sometimes, through a mistake that happens we get to learn and then it has some value.”
Ed Reitkopp, meanwhile, was told to stay away from the office.
A lawyer who focuses on labor and employment issues, Reitkopp was ordered by the Cerritos-based law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, not to return to work until further notified after the firm was made aware of the allegations against him.
The law firm issued a statement after it learned about “the allegations against an employee of the firm” the evening of May 30.
“We have many animal lovers at the firm who are troubled by the reported conditions and hope that all the rescued dogs are safe and healthy,” the statement said.
The couple became embroiled in controversy after an anonymous tip Thursday afternoon led to the discovery of the dogs in their home in the 3800 block of East Woodbine Avenue, living in what authorities called “deplorable” conditions.
“This was a hoarding situation,” Orange police Sgt. Phil McMullin said Friday, adding that though there wasn’t a lot of furniture in the home, police believe the couple was living there.
McMullin also said Friday there was an odor of urine and feces just by opening the door.
The home was raided by animal-control officers in hazardous-materials suits, who later brought the dogs out one by one.
The couple was home when officers arrived sometime after 2:20 p.m., authorities said.
Simpfenderfer was happy to hear that all the animals had been taken to OC Animal Care and were receiving needed treatment.
The center, though, was already at capacity when it took in the dogs, spokeswoman Jessica Novillo said Friday.
“They’re safe now,” Mike Kaviani, director at OC Animal Care said at the center Saturday. “They’re being taken care of and getting one-on-one attention, medical attention, love and comfort.”
The dogs were still in custody of the authorities during the ongoing investigation and not currently available for adoption, Kaviani said, adding the center’s biggest current need was for residents to consider adopting cats and dogs housed at the center prior to their arrival.
People continued to arrive at the center Saturday afternoon, unloading their vehicles with dog food and other items, including Kathleen McCarthy, 57, who dropped off blankets.
“I’m just wanting to do what I can,” said McCarthy, an Aliso Viejo resident. “We have a pound kitten. We’re not in position to take care of a pound puppy, but this is what we can do.”
The Reitkopps’ home has been red-tagged by the city’s code-enforcement team, meaning the house was considered unlivable so the owners had to leave.
Police had no updates in the case on Saturday.