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Judge orders Pierce County to sell dogs

SUNDAY, FEB. 3, 2008

TACOMA – A judge has ordered Pierce County to sell dozens of dogs seized last year from a Graham dog breeder, calling it a reasonable way for the county to offset the more than $100,000 in boarding fees it has paid to the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.

At $10 a day for 51 dogs, the fees for caring for the confiscated animals have added up quickly. The county has a $1.1 million annual animal services budget, county officials said.

“You could almost buy a condo for these escalating costs,” Superior Court Judge Beverly Grant told the attorneys on the case before issuing her ruling Friday. “The dogs are going to be sold. All of them.”

Deputy prosecutor Tom Moore said the county doesn’t want to get into the dog-selling business.

In addition, many of the dogs have been farmed out to temporary foster homes while the case winds its way through the court system, the deputy prosecutor told Grant. It seems unfair to ask the people who generously opened their homes to the animals to now buy them, he said.

The judge suggested using the Internet to advertise the dogs, which are mostly purebred Great Danes.

Moore told the News Tribune newspaper outside court that he’d be working with county animal control officials and the Humane Society to come up with a plan for selling the dogs, which, after Grant’s ruling, now belong to the county.

Selling the dogs was the idea of Charles Johnston, the attorney representing dog breeder Bernadette Vohs. He said the county sells other items it seizes during criminal investigations, so why not dogs?

Selling the animals helps taxpayers, but also his client, who faces the prospect of restitution if convicted.

The county seized the dogs in June 2007 after deputies received a complaint from a woman that Vohs, 44, defrauded her on the sale of a dog.

Vohs has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges, including first- and second-degree theft, engaging in business without a license, second-degree animal cruelty and operating an unlicensed kennel.


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