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Saturday’s highlights

Tiffany Allen, who has Down Syndrome, sits beside the formal dress she will wear as she vies for homecoming princess at East Valley High School. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Hold on to your hat, and your Saturday Valley Voice, so it doesn't blow away on this very breezy Monday. We had a couple of stories about teenagers doing well to start off with. Reporter Lisa Leinberger wrote about East Valley High School junior Tiffany Allen who has been nominated for homecoming royalty. Allen, who has Down syndrome, is getting a lot of support from her fellow students.

Teenager Micaela Halpin won second place in the recent video and photo contests run by the city of Spokane Valley in celebration of the city's 10th anniversary. Halpin's winning entries and the entries of the other winners can be seen at www.spokanevalley10.com.

A recent dog attack in the small town of Latah is illustrating the problem that many small towns are having with animal control. Many of the towns contract with SpokAnimal, which doesn't have any enforcement powers outside of the Spokane city limits. Now the towns are looking to the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service for help.

Bad cat news: 70 sick cats euthanized

SpokAnimal employees faced a heartbreaking decision when a deadly virus was discovered in several of the cats at the shelter: euthanize every cat or risk spreading the infection.

They opted to put down 70 cats.

“It was not a good night,” said Laura Thulean, SpokAnimal’s chief operating officer.

On July 30, shelter operators discovered that two litters of kittens brought to the shelter were infected with feline distemper, a viral infection that attacks the lining of the cat’s gastrointestinal tract. Cats with the virus experience bloody diarrhea and severe dehydration, and it is often fatal.

The kittens were strays, apparently found in a West Central garage, Thulean said. They didn’t start exhibiting symptoms until a few days after they’d been dropped off at SpokAnimal.

By then, it was too late. Other animals were already showing symptoms, and several random diagnostic tests showed many of the cats had the virus. Kaitlin Gillespie, SR

Have you ever adopted a pet from a shelter?

Today’s highlights

Japanese students perform traditional dance and drumming on Monday at New Life Church. Compass USA is celebrating 25 years of its exchange student program with Japan.SR photo/Dan Pelle

We have a bright and sunny morning to check out today's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on a large group of Japanese exchange students who have been visiting Spokane Valley through a program run by Compass USA. The students, who took English classes and explored the area, recently put on a Japanese culture night for their host families.

Spokane Valley is still mulling over a decision on animal control. The city received proposals from SCRAPS and SpokAnimal for animal control service and there are some important differences between the two. The city council is expected to make a decision by the end of the month.

Reporter Pia Hallenberg has a story on God's Closet, which provides free clothing for children after parents pay $1 admission. There's a free shopping day coming up Friday at the Central Seventh-day Adventist Fellowship Hall at 804 W. Spofford in Spokane.

Charges filed in Hillyard animal cruelty

A Spokane woman who had 50 dogs and cats packed into a squalid bungalow in Hillyard has been charged with animal cruelty.

Laneva Marsha Erskine, 57, faces nine misdemeanor charges stemming from a February raid at her home at 3622 E. Crown Ave. in which workers wore hazardous material suits and respirators to combat the heavy stench.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 8: Animals seized from squalid Hillyard home

Saturday’s highlights

Firefighter Tom Carleton of Spokane Valley’s Ladder 10 walks through a charred hillside during a wildland fire training session Wednesday in Spokane Valley. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

Today is Monday and it's sunny. Are we sure this is Spokane? It's time to grab a cup of coffee and settle in to check out some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley Fire Department spent some time doing wildland fire training last week and invited other local fire departments to participate.

The Spokane Valley City Council has agreed to issue a request for proposal's for the city's animal control service with the intention of getting information from SpokAnimal Care on what they might charge to take over the city's animal control contract.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a nice story on Liberty Lake Regional Park, a little known park on the shores of Liberty Lake that has hiking trails, camping, a playground, swimming and a dock to fish off of. It's a great place to sit on the beach and enjoy the views.

Saturday’s highlights

A dock sits below the Coyote Rock development Tuesday. The Washington state Court of Appeals ruled that docks installed at the development were illegal. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

We have a ton of good stories for you in Saturday's Valley Voice, so let's get right to it. The Washington State Court of Appeals recently ruled that the docks at the Coyote Rock development are illegal after a lawsuit filed by the Department of Ecology, but the court didn't examine one of the issues presented by the DOE and the environmental groups that joined the lawsuit.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a great story on students at Summit School, who sent their teacher light-hearted threats in iambic pentameter to convince him to allow them to put on a shortened, clown-based version of “Hamlet.” Lisa also reported on vandalism of the sheds at the East Valley community garden. Police quickly arrested the group of teens responsible, but students were left to clean up the mess.

A goup of Girl Scouts has come through in a big way for the town of Millwood. Correspondent Valerie Putnam reported on their successful effort to raise enough money to repair the town's wading pool. The Spokane Valley City Council seems willing to explore contracting with SpokAnimal for animal control services instead of SCRAPS. City staff is still in the information collecting stage.  

Paws & Poles event leads to fun on skis, snowshoes

WINTER SPORTS — It's time for skiers and snowshoers to hitch a ride behind their dogs and sign up for the sixth annual Paws & Poles Race. The event that benefits SpokAnimal CARE is set for March 3 at 49 Degrees North.

Enter a 5-kilometer cross-country skijoring race or leash up to your dog for a 3K snowshoe race.  Both races will begin at 11 a.m. at the resort's Nordic Center. 

Registration opens at 9 a.m. Entry fee: $20.

Pre-register at Mountain Gear in Spokane. Info: 325-9000.

See photos of last year's event here.

Spokane Area Couple Had 39 Cats

Animal control officers wore white hazardous material suits as they worked to remove potentially dozens of cats from a Spokane home Wednesday. The couple who live at the residence, located on the 4000 block of North Addison Street, told SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. they have 39 cats. Officers had removed 20 cats as of Wednesday evening. SpokAnimal officials said the unidentified couple who live at the residence was cooperating and no charges have been filed, so they released few details Wednesday. Spokane County records show John K. Billington and Pamela M. Billington own the property, but it is unknown whether they are the two people currently living in the squalid home, which smelled strongly of urine/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here. (Christopher Anderson's SR photo: SpokAnimal Animal Control Officer Chad Himelspach holds one of the many cats that were removed from a home on Wednesday)

Question: How many cats would a neighbor have to have before you consider it a hoard?

In aftermath of animal control tax defeat, Spokane signs back up with SpokAnimal

The above map shows the outcome of Spokane County Proposition 1, which was rejected overwhelmingly in the November election. (Map by Jim Camden.)

The rejection county voters gave last month to a tax for a new animal shelter led the Spokane City Council on Monday to stick with SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.

 

The council voted unanimously to approve a two-year contract to pay the nonprofit group about $753,000 a year to continue to handle animal control services within city limits. The contract is an increase of about 3.4 percent from the amount the city will pay the group in 2011. SpokAnimal will continue to return a portion of dog and cat license fees to the city, about $200,000 each year.

Animal shelter tax gets boost from City Council

A unified regional animal control system won important, though qualified, support tonight from city leaders.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to endorse Mayor Mary Verner’s stance on a proposed nine-year county property tax that would pay for a new animal shelter for the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.

Verner has told county commissioners that she will back the tax if the county agrees to let Spokane join the system for the same amount the city is paying its nonprofit provider, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., this year (about $561,000) plus increases to account for inflation over the next nine years. The county would keep the city’s dog and cat license revenue.

“This way, we have control over our own destiny, at least for nine years,” said Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.


Documents:

Is someone targeting Spokane dogs?

Abby collapsed near the back steps, convulsing before her owner took her inside, where she died.

Her companion, Snoopy, died shortly after, both victims of what animal control officials suspect is a targeted assault using poisoned meatballs to kill Spokane’s best friends.

The attack on Abby and Snoopy took place in the 3300 block of East 55th Street. Another dog living near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway died Friday.

Then on Monday, a homeowner near 36th Street and Grand Boulevard found a suspicious meatball similar to those found Friday. Officials suspect a connection but haven’t determined one.The meat will be sent to Washington State University for testing.

Meanwhile, dog owners are urged to inspect their yards and keep their pets indoors, and the Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to an arrest. In each case, officials said, the targeted properties have dog houses, signs or other indications that dogs live there.

“It looks to me as though somebody is just driving around and wherever they see evidence of a dog living there, they toss those meatballs out,” said Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal. “It doesn’t make a difference where you live, you’re not immune.”

The people responsible for the tainted meatballs face charges of first-degree animal cruelty.

Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, described the substance as “a very fast-acting, horrible-death kind of poison.”

The meatballs “are very attractive, and they’re very lethal,” she said. “A dog can eat a meatball before you can even blink an eye.”

The woman who found the meat in her front yard on Monday “for some miraculous reason” had only let her dogs in the backyard that morning, Hill said.

“She was extremely upset knowing those were sitting in the area,” Hill said.

Abby (top right) and Snoopy (top left) lived with 21-year-old David Cheney and his family.

Cheney found the dogs early Friday after they ate what officials believe are the same type of meatballs found earlier that day near Regal Street and the Palouse Highway.

A SCRAPS investigator found several suspicious meatballs in Cheney’s neighbor’s yard.

“I spent Friday and Saturday burying both dogs,” Cheney said.

Both are buried in the backyard under large wooden crosses. Snoopy’s grave is below a tree he liked to lie under on sunny days.

The Cheneys brought the dogs with them from Florida when they moved to Spokane in 2002.

Cheney said he has no idea who would want to hurt them or why.

“The cops have better get ahold of him before I do,” Cheney said. “I’ll go to prison over it.”