Prosecutors are preparing criminal charges after sheriff’s deputies, animal control officers and volunteers rescued 255 dogs from two illegal breeding sites in southern Stevens County.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office said deputies served search warrants at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at residences in the unincorporated communities of Ford and Suncrest, Washington. The exact locations and names of the four suspects were not publicly disclosed, the sheriff’s office said, because charges had not been filed as of Wednesday afternoon.
In Ford, investigators found 89 dogs and puppies, in various states of health, living in a filthy 600-square-foot mobile home that was also occupied by two people, the sheriff’s office said. One puppy was “near death,” and the carcass of another had been improperly disposed of, the sheriff’s office said.
In Suncrest, near Nine Mile Falls, investigators found another 166 dogs living in a split-level home, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators wore hazmat suits while processing both scenes because of the unsanitary conditions.
The sheriff’s office said most of the dogs were small breeds, and photos shared by the agency show what appear to be chihuahuas.
The sheriff’s office said authorities had been aware of the breeding operation in Suncrest for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that Deputy Jessica Garza established probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The sheriff’s office also recently learned of the operation near Ford.
The number of dogs seized during the raids was significantly higher than investigators had expected, the sheriff’s office said. The raids required weeks of planning because of the logistical challenges of seizing, housing, feeding and providing all of the animals with medical attention.
Volunteers from American Humane and the Spokane Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team went to Stevens County several days before the raids to set up a temporary shelter. Local veterinarians and officials from the Spokane Regional Animal Protection Agency were present during the raids to help contain, catalog and examine each dog.
The sheriff’s office said the suspects likely would face charges of animal cruelty and violations of dog breeding statutes. Prosecutors are also considering felony charges.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.