Warning: Some of the photos in this story can be considered graphic.
STEVENS CO., Wash. – A Stevens County man appeared in court Tuesday on animal cruelty charges after 38 dogs and a cat were seized from his property in early May.
Thomas “Russell” Hostetler plead not guilty to three counts of first-degree animal cruelty, three counts of second-degree animal cruelty and one count of obstructing.
Court documents state Hostetler pulled a gun and ran from deputies when they tried to arrest him on his property, which resulted in the obstruction charge.
Hosteteler’s wife, Theresa, was also arrested in connection to the case. She will appear in court next Tuesday for six charges of animal cruelty. The judge upheld there release conditions and they will remain out of jail while they await trial.
Thomas and Theresa Hostetler walking out of court. pic.twitter.com/viHgiyRfIL— Lindsay Nadrich (@KREMLindsay) May 16, 2017
A group of people also waited outside the courtroom for the Hostetlers with signs protesting animal abuse. They want the laws in Stevens County to change. Supporters believe we need stricter laws to prevent future cases of animal abuse and neglect.
"The laws have to be changed in this county and it's almost embarrassing to say that I live in Stevens County when the abuse around here is so horrific and so ignored and so pushed under the rug," said Susie Taylor.
Following the arrests, Rescue4All, a local non-profit, rescued the animals and helped relocate them. They plan to be there every time the couple is in court.
“There was a dog with a life threatening injury on her neck that had gone untreated for a week and she needed medical care,” Jamie McAtee from the non-profit that saved them said. “Every single dog out there had some kind of injury.”
McAtee said the carabiners used to tether some of the dogs outside had actually been rusted shut. She said she believes the two suspects were breeding and selling the dogs in the area and whichever animals weren’t sold just lived at their home in deplorable conditions for the rest of their days.
When deputies searched the property they found dead dogs still chained to trees, dogs with life threatening wounds and feces a foot high. Neighbor Michael Treece said he has felt like a prisoner in his own home living next to the property.
"Just a horrendous amount of abuse and hoarding of animals and health conditions that exceed anything beyond anything that's normal whatsoever," said Treece.
Following the rescue, Rescue4All connected with the Humane Society of the United States to place the dogs in their care until they can find permanent homes.
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