January 3, 2000
These two dogs were among many found living in terrible conditions on five acres east of Duvall.
Photo by Becky Nixon.
by Becky Nixon, contributing writer
DUVALL--Neighbors and animal rescue volunteers came to the aid last week of 130 animals found living in sordid conditions on five acres on Stossel Creek Way, east of Duvall.
Neighbors said 14 dogs, 9 cats, 2 horses, 3 sheep, and about 100 goats were found living among manure or excrement in small pens and unlivable trailers. Many of the dogs were starving and suffering from open sores. None of them had water to drink.
The extent of the condition of the animals prompted removal and euthanasia of at least five of the dogs by King County Animal Control. One dog was found dead at the site.
Neighbors said they discovered the conditions after the owner, who had been hospitalized, asked them to feed the animals. But when they found the situation beyond what they could handle, they called Animal Control. Other animal rescue people were called, as well, to provide foster homes for other animals if needed or directed by Animal Control.
The neighbors and volunteers termed it "an intervention" and portrayed the property owner as an animal lover that just let the situation "snowball." They said the owner is an educated person living on disability, and trying to feed the animals as best as possible. They said the owner wanted to sell the property, move more rurally, and have a barn for the animals' comfort. A sale on the property fell through last summer. Neighbors reported that there has never been an adequate water source on the property.
Rescue volunteers found the dogs, all good natured, to be living in squalor. Some were so weak they were unable to take food, and living in old kennels or crates caked with feces. Cats were locked in old bedrooms and baths with no food or water, and the floors and a bathtub were filled with feces. Nine cats were counted at different times, but volunteers weren't sure how many cats were actually on the premises. The goats were in small pens with no water, and the two horses were up to their bellies in mud and manure.
Neighbors stated they had called Animal Control on three previous occasions, but field supervisors were unable to enter the outbuildings where many of the very ill animals were kept. "The owner would tell Animal Control that there weren't that many animals on site," said neighbors. "An effort was always made to feed them."
Other neighbors conveyed concerns about the accumulation of garbage on the premises that was attracting large numbers of rats. They also complained about the horrendous smell, and the possibilty of pollutants entering the fish-bearing creek below.
Animal rescue volunteers and the Animal Control officer on site discussed what they called the "collector syndrome." They said an animal "collector" takes in every stray, thinking they can take care of an animal better than anyone else, which evolves into a tendency to lose reality of the situation. The person sees the animals, even if they are visibly starving, as well-cared-for, and the uneducated collector does not believe in neutering or spaying their animals.
Vicki Schmitz, Manager of King County Animal Services & Programs, referred to the conditions as "horrific."
"We called the owner and received permission to euthanize the sickest animals," she said. "The neighbors have agreed to care for the animals temporarily until we get it all sorted out. We want to make sure that the animals are cared for."
She added that cases such as this are usually submitted to the prosecutor's office for review.