Updated September 25, 2019 - 9:17 am
An animal activist and former actress has taken legal action after her three service dogs and 73 other animals were confiscated from her North Las Vegas home on July 8, leaving her facing a hefty fine in addition to possible elder-abuse charges.
Susan Mechsner, who played a mud wrestler in the 1981 comedy film “Stripes,” is suing the Animal Foundation of Las Vegas. She claims it held her animals for two and a half months even though she’d done nothing wrong.
Las Vegas police were called to the home on the 5000 block of Tipperary Street for what was expected to be a welfare check on an older woman whose son couldn’t reach her.
Officers found animals including eight dogs, three kittens, two iguanas, a pot-bellied pig, two ducks, 12 chickens, 19 fish and 29 birds — two cockatoos, five conjures, five finches, two lovebirds, one macaw and 14 parakeets.
Police called Las Vegas Animal Control, which confiscated the dogs and brought them to the Animal Foundation. Most of the animals are being cared for by the foundation, with the exception of the pig, which is being held at a rescue partner facility in the valley; the 40-year-old macaw, which is being fostered by a foundation employee; and one duck, which foundation spokeswoman Kelly Leahy said was “humanely euthanized” because it was sick.
Three of the dogs — Pee-Wee and Penelloppy the chihuahuas and Charlie the dachshund — are professionally registered service animals, trained to detect seizures.
Though you may not recognize her name, you’re likely familiar with some of the films Mechsner appeared in. According to her IMDb page, in addition to her role in “Stripes,” she is credited as Gypsie in “The Cotton Club,” Gunderson in “Chained Heat” and a leaflet lady in “Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie.”
Mechsner sued to get her animals back Sept. 16 and said the whole thing was a big misunderstanding.
She wasn’t home when police arrived; she said she was at a hospital being treated for blood issues in her legs.
Mechsner said she cares for her mother, so the two live together. While Mechsner was at the hospital July 8, she said, her brother called the house. When their mother didn’t answer, he asked police to check on her.
While she was gone, Mechsner said, her pig got into a trash bag and dragged it across the house to the front door, leaving a trail of garbage. When police arrived, she said, they likely saw the trash and the animals and assumed they’d walked into an animal-hoarding situation.
Mechsner said she’s not a hoarder and claims that she trains her animals to perform on TV and in movies. She said she works with Animal Actors of Hollywood, but the organization said it has no record of working with her, though she was a close friend of the founder.
Mechsner said her backyard boasts a 25-by-25-foot aviary for the birds and a $10,000 barn for the pig, among other accommodations.
There are numerous regulations in place to ensure animals are treated properly in Las Vegas. The city’s Code of Ordinances provides an equation to determine the minimum square footage provided for each animal: “the mathematical square of the sum of six inches pus the length of the animal measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, and dividing that amount by 144.”
The animals were put on a regulation hold at the foundation, meaning they cannot be released until police are able to determine whether criminal charges will be brought. Las Vegas police said they are investigating possible elder abuse and neglect, but they don’t have anything in their records about animal abuse in Mechsner’s case.
Leahy said the animals will be held regardless of what kind of charges Mechsner might face. To get the animals back, Mechsner would face a big fine; Leahy said the foundation charges $10 per animal, per day, to cover the costs of care. In this case, that’s $750 a day. The fines would need to be paid upfront before the animals could be released.
If she got her animals back on Wednesday, Mechsner would have to pay just under $60,000 — an amount she would be responsible for whether charges are filed or not.