Spokane Police assisted SpokAnimal CARE officers Wednesday in removing more than 30 dogs and cats from a Hillyard bungalow that carried such a heavy stench that workers were forced to wear hazardous material suits and respirators to operate inside.
Officers obtained a search warrant for the home of Marsha Erskine, 57, at 3622 E. Crown Ave., after a series of complaints led them to several dogs and cats outside in crates that were piled high with feces.
“All the cats are strays,” said Erskine, 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 to the basement, which had the same square footage but no approved access.
Marilyn Meyer, of SpokAnimal, said the only access was 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 Erskine, 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.”
Erskine said her husband, Calvin, who turns 87 today, recently fell and remains hospitalized with a broken leg. “I’ve been nothing but harassed,” Erskine 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.”
Reedie Dodd, 55, said she left her dachshund named Lucky, which had surgery on Monday, with Erskine 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.”
Erskine said Dodd actually dropped off six new puppies and four cats along with Lucky.
Animal control officers initially removed four dogs and eight cats, but they said they had 18 or so to go.
Despite the conditions, Erskine was not charged Wednesday. Animal control officers will turn their findings over to local prosecutors for potential animal cruelty charges.
“I’ve had animals all my life,” Erskine said. “I hope to get some of them back.”