“I’ve never seen anything like that in 20 years as a police officer.”
Kellogg Police Sgt. Paul Twidt was short of words when he recounted the events of June 14, when he played a role in rescuing 85 abandoned dogs and nine cats from a hoarder’s home in Kellogg as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press. The rescue has become Kootenai Humane Society’s largest ever batch of dogs received at one time.
Based on a previous recorded incident with Kootenai animal control and a pending request for charges by KPD to the Shoshone County Prosecutor's Office, the Hagadone News Network has identified the suspected hoarder responsible for the abandonment. However, KREM 2 News has decided not to identify the woman because she has not been arrested or charged with a crime yet.
While the suspect's whereabouts were unknown as of today, Twidt said KPD will be requesting animal cruelty charges be filed against her. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the suspect and another individual may have left the area Sunday.
According to a Kootenai County Animal Control incident report from June 2016, the suspect had a run-in with officials for a similar situation when she previously lived in Hayden. The incident, in which no criminal charges were filed, involved animal control taking dozens of dogs (of the same breed as the incident in Kellogg) and an unknown number of cats from her home and putting them out for adoption.
Sgt. Twidt said the dogs were first discovered on Monday when the landlord of a home at 418 W. Mullan Avenue, along with Kellogg Animal Control Officer Sheri Morgan, went to the property to do a walk-through following multiple notices to the tenant.
The night before, the landlord was notified by a text message from the phone of the tenant (but not from the tenant themselves) that there were multiple dogs living in the residence and they needed help.
Upon entering, Twidt and Morgan discovered a thoroughly soiled home along with the abandoned dogs and cats - but no tenant. Following the discovery, Twidt and Shoshone Pet Rescue President Marcia Biotti assisted in processing all the animals.
“They’re all pretty much the same breed, so (they) have probably kept them there for quite a while,” Twidt said. “It’s a pretty classic case of hoarding.”
To the surprise of responders, most of the dogs showed that they were well fed and even had their nails clipped. While it was apparent that the dogs had had their run of the home, Twidt suspects they were mostly kept downstairs, as neighbors told KPD they had no idea that the home’s occupant had even a single animal.
While the home showed obvious signs of many animals having lived there for an extended time, it was apparent that an attempt had been made to clean the home prior to the walk-through on Monday.
Over the course of 7-8 hours, in coordination with the Kootenai Humane Society, Morgan volunteered her private truck and horse trailer to transport the dogs over to Coeur d’Alene in crates.
Of the original 85 dogs that were discovered, 83 survived, as one was already dead and another had to be euthanized. Dog breeds include yorkies, terriers, chihuahuas, and other mixes.
Debbie Jeffrey, KHS executive director, shook her head in disbelief as she took a brief break Tuesday from helping with the new arrivals.
She said it was by far the most dogs KHS has rescued from a single case.
“I’ve never seen anything this bad,” she said.
KHS staff spent Monday night handling each dog to detail their age, sex and condition. Four were pregnant. Thirty-three were male.
“We really didn’t have trouble with any of them,” Jeffrey said. “That’s not common when you have that many dogs in a hoarding situation.”
She said a Thompson Falls, Mont., shelter is going to take 15 of the dogs.
“That still leaves us with quite a few here to take care of,” she said.
Hundreds of people have since rushed to adopt the dogs and KHS Development Director Vicky Nelson said Wednesday that they received 250 online adoption applications specifically for those dogs — so many KHS finally removed the form from its website.
She said they also received many phone calls from people offering to deliver dog food, but KHS is well stocked in that area.
“We can’t take anymore,” she said. “The best thing they can do is go online and make a donation.”
Of the 83 dogs that survived the ordeal, 68 were shipped to KHS and are doing well, Nelson said. They were let outside for the first time and spent Wednesday morning enjoying the sunshine.
While adoptions are wonderful and the dogs are generally healthy, Nelson did add that the dogs are not house broken, so those planning to adopt one should be prepared for that.
Biotti, who played a key role in getting the 68 dogs to KHS, said that Shoshone Pet Rescue is caring for 13 of the dogs and another two were adopted on-scene Tuesday. The nine cats rescued from the Kellogg home were taken in by the Silver Valley Cat Wranglers.
"I've been doing this for 15 years and I've never seen anything like it," Biotti said. "It was the biggest hoarding situation we have dealt with. It's mind boggling."
As of today, both KHS and SPR are no longer taking adoption applications for the dogs, as homes for all of them have already been lined up, but they are still in need of financial donations to cover the costs of medical treatment.
Donations will help cover the costs of spaying/neutering procedures, vaccines, and replacing broken equipment.
The Kootenai Humane Society is located at 11650 N. Ramsey Road in Hayden. They can be reached at 208-772-4019.
For Shoshone Pet Rescue, checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 884 Kellogg, 83837.
If you or anyone you know has information regarding the whereabouts of the suspect, contact the Kellogg Police Department at 208-784-1131 and ask for Sgt. Paul Twidt.
The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.