His feet still too big for his body and his tongue hanging in the breeze, the young black Labrador running around the play yard at SCRAPS animal shelter seemingly didn’t have a care in the world Thursday.
But the happy face hid a recent horror: Last Saturday morning, the same dog was wailing for help, buried beneath a concrete slab and a few feet of dirt in his owner’s backyard.
“It’s unbelievable to think someone would do that to any creature,” said Patricia Simonet, a program coordinator at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service. Simonet was at the shelter Saturday morning when a neighbor called to report the dog buried under the concrete footing for some stairs in the 5000 block of North Evergreen Road in Spokane Valley.
By the time Spokane Valley police arrived, neighbors had started digging out the dog, using a plastic shovel to avoid hurting him. The dog, about a year old, had been buried under a concrete slab, where he had made his home. When the neighbors heard the dog under the slab, they noticed a shovel next to the entrance, which was firmly packed down with a few feet of fresh dirt, Simonet said.
The dog, named Stinky by his owner but awaiting a name change from a new owner, was removed and appeared to have no injuries.
While county animal officials were appalled at what many called a first-ever occurrence, they are also frustrated that nobody may answer for the crime. Nobody witnessed the dog being buried so officials can’t put together enough evidence to charge anyone. The owner did not deny burying the dog, Simonet said.
“We think it was the owner who did it,” Simonet said. “There’s lots of circumstantial evidence to say that, but we couldn’t find a way to prove that.”
Attempts to reach the owner at her home were unsuccessful Thursday.
The owner was confronted by animal protection officers and was “strongly encouraged” to release control of the dog to the county, Simonet said.
Now the puppy is occupying a warm kennel at the SCRAPS shelter, Simonet said. Before he was rescued, the dog slept on an old sleeping bag on a back porch, she said.
If owners are having trouble with their dog, they can take advantage of free obedience classes at SCRAPS, Simonet said.
“What’s really distressing is we can fix most problems people have with dogs through training,” she said. “All of this was so avoidable.”
Officials are still looking for information in the case. Simonet said she hopes a neighbor who saw the event will come forward. A suspect could face charges of illegal confinement and second-degree animal abuse.
Animal control officer Francisca Rapier said she’d never seen anything like it when she arrived at the scene Saturday morning.