Spokane Police assisted SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. officers in removing a total of about 30 dogs and cats today from a northeast Hillyard bungalow which carried such a heavy stench that the workers were forced to wear hazardous material suits and respirators to operate inside.
Officers obtained a search warrant for the home of Marsha Erskin, 57, at 3622 E. Crown Ave., after a series of complaints led them to find several dogs and cats outside in crates that were piled high with feces.
“All the cats are strays,” Erskin said, smoking a cigarillo as she watched animal control officers swarm around her home. “I took the strays to SpokAnimal but they wouldn’t take them. They tried to charge me $35 a piece and I don’t have the money.”
Spokane County property records show the tiny home was built in 1929 with only 288 square feet of space upstairs. Most of the animals were confined in the basement, that had the same square footage but no approved access.
Marilyn Meyer, of SpokAnimal, said the only access were steps carved out of the dirt with boards laid over them.
“She hadn’t given the animals fresh water and hasn’t cleaned up after them,” Meyer said.
Asked how many complaints have been levied against Erskin, Meyer replied: “Innumerable. We get calls every month. I have been working for SpokAnimal for 28 years. We have been dealing with this person for 28 years.”
Erskin said her husband, Calvin, who turns 87 Thursday, recently fell and remains hospitalized with a broken leg. She said much of the stacks of plastic bins, junker vehicles and other items stacked in the front yard of the home — which is surrounded on two sides by metal cargo containers stacked two high — are there because she is in the process of moving.
“I’ve been nothing but harassed,” Erskin said of SpokAnimal.
Asked about the feces and horrid conditions, she replied: “I haven’t had time to do anything. I work two part-time jobs. I was doing pretty good up until the past couple months.”
Friend Reedie Dodd, 55, said she left her daschund named Lucky, which had surgery on Monday, with Erskin while she moved out of her Spokane Valley home.
“I trusted her with the dog. I didn’t know this would happen,” Dodd said. “I shouldn’t have brought him over here.”
But when Erskin arrived, she said Dodd actually dropped off Lucky, six new puppies and four cats.
Animal control officers initially removed four dogs and eight cats. But they said they had 18 or so to go.
Despite the conditions, Erskin was not charged Wednesday. Instead, animal control officers will turn in their findings to local prosecutors for potential animal cruelty charges.
“I’ve had animals all my life,” Erskin said. “I hope to get some of them back.”