MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. — Content warning: This story contains descriptions of animal cruelty and abuse that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The operator and trainer of a Medical Lake dog kennel is accused of killing several dogs due to his inadequate care and neglect of the animals.
Greg Houser pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree animal cruelty and one count of running an unlicensed kennel.
Houser was running Houser's Quality Labs, a dog training and boarding business in Medical Lake, since at least 2019. According to court documents, at least two of the dogs he was training died in his care.
On Aug. 12, 2021, court documents state Houser brought two dogs, Drake and Andy, to the West Plains Animal Hospital. Drake was dead upon arrival and Andy was in critical condition. Both dogs were "dirty, smelled and were underweight."
Houser told veterinarians that Drake and Andy "ate and acted normal the night prior, but lost weight overnight and were 'dying' that morning." He also told veterinarians that another dog at his facility died three weeks earlier from Parvo, an infectious virus that dogs can contract by coming into contact with an infected animal.
When veterinarians began examining Andy, he was in extremely poor condition. Court documents state Andy had a fever of 104.6 degrees, was semi-comatose and severely underweight and experienced multiple grand mal seizures.
Andy was also severely dehydrated, had pressure lesions on both elbows and knees and had a severely elevated sodium level of 190. He was also suffering from hypernatremia, a high concentration of sodium in the blood, likely due to a combination of very hot weather, gastrointestinal problems and being housed in an aluminum dog trailer with no shade cover, according to documents.
Andy ultimately died after being taken to the Washington State University (WSU) Veterinary Hospital for further treatment.
"Irritating, since the beginning. Since everything happened he's been very nonchalant about everything," Leidelmeyer told KREM 2. "He hasn't shown any care or remorse. He's been going as business as normal. So, I was hoping he would take a plea deal. He decided not to, which didn't surprise me because that's his character."
Drake and Andy's owners both stated the dogs were healthy, active and up to date on their vaccinations prior to their training with Houser. Veterinarians stated Andy's critical condition did not occur overnight, according to court documents.
Lawrence Leidelmeyer, Andy's owner, told investigators Houser texted him at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2021, to tell him Andy had been sick for three days. Leidelmeyer told Houser to take Andy to the vet immediately, but did not receive a response from Houser until approximately 8:40 a.m. saying he was on his way to the vet.
Shortly after, Leidelmeyer received a call from West Plains and was told Andy was in critical condition and had "a 10% chance" of making it, according to documents.
Leidelmeyer told investigators he received photos of Andy from West Plains showing that he was "underweight and soiled with feces and urine."
Drake's owner told investigators he had a similar experience with Houser prior to his dog's death. According to court documents, Houser called Drake's owner at 7 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2021, and told him Drake was "lethargic, vomiting, defecating and urinating on himself, had lost weight overnight and was unable to walk."
Similar to Leidelmeyer, Drake's owner told Houser to immediately take Drake to the vet for medical care. Approximately two hours later, Houser called Schallberger and told him Drake was dead. Drake's owner said he did not learn until later that Drake was dead on arrival at West Plains, according to documents.
Drake's owner and his wife went to Houser's property on Aug. 14, 2021. While there, the two discovered transport trailers outside in the direct sunlight with no shade cover, as well as seven to eight dog runs inside the facility with only one shop fan and no air conditioning.
One of Houser's former assistants spoke with investigators about his time working on the property. During that time, he said the dogs were kept in boxes on transport trailers for most of the day. He said each dog was outside the box for a total of one hour per day.
The assistant said there was no bedding or mats in the trailers, which were made of aluminum. There were also no fans or air conditioning inside the trailers, which he said were never moved and faced the sun during all hours of the day.
Food and water bowls were not inside the boxes. Rather, the staff gave the dogs water in buckets, according to court documents.
The assistant said he heard a phone conversation between Houser and Leidelmeyer in which Houser told him Andy had been sick for three days. Leidelmeyer said he told Houser to take Andy to the vet, but Houser said he had to "finish airing all the dogs first."
Leidelmeyer asked Houser why he waited for three days to take Andy to the vet. Court documents state Houser denied saying the dogs were sick and changed his story to say the dogs were fine upon airing at 10 p.m. the night before.
Animal protection officers ultimately determined that Houser had committed animal cruelty, willfully confining the animals in an enclosed space where they were exposed to excessive heat, criminal negligence and owning and exercising control of an unlicensed commercial kennel.
During his court appearance on Wednesday, Houser did not enter a plea. His next court date is set for Nov. 12, 2022.
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