February 21, 2000
King County prosecutors have wrapped up their animal cruelty investigation of a Duvall-area woman, concluding that there is not enough evidence to file charges.
The woman, Jana Bartell, became sick in December and asked neighbors to care for her animals. When the neighbors went to the five-acre property on Stossel Creek Way, they discovered over 130 animals, including goats, sheep, horses, dogs, and cats, living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
One dog was found dead. Other dogs were living in crates, apparently undernourished. Animal Control officers removed six of the dogs, three of which had to be euthanized. Volunteers spent hours feeding and watering the remaining animals. Later, Animal Control helped Bartell relocate the livestock.
The case was referred to the King County Prosecutor's Office, but they concluded their investigation last week, declining to prosecute.
"Charges of 2nd degree animal cruelty were being considered, which applies to a situation where animals are neglected," said King County Prosecutor spokesman Dan Donohoe. "First degree animal cruelty is when a person is charged with torturing, or criminally neglecting animals. It would have to be proved that the owner recklessly failed to provide animals with the basic necessities.
"What we found was that there was an attempt at feeding the animals ... there were large bags of food available," he said. "The conditions were very poor, but not enough to file charges."
Donohoe said the animals that were very thin were actually suffering from cancer and their conditions were unrelated to the conditions on the property. "The dogs had to be put down, anyway," he said.
Vicki Schmitz, Manager of King County Animal Services and Programs, said the agency is progressing on filing a "notice and order" relating to Bartell's ability to own or keep animals. "That's being developed now," she said. "Requirements that will allow her to keep animals will be in the document and we will be meeting with her to discuss it. She does have the right to appeal and that would go to the Board of Appeals for a hearing. We want to make sure the animals she keeps are cared for humanely and there will be an inspection process."
Schmitz said she believes Bartell has only eight remaining dogs on the property. "We want to make sure conditions for the animals remain appropriate."