STEVENS COUNTY, WASH. — The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office served two search warrants Tuesday morning which led to the rescue of 255 dogs as part of an investigation into illegal dog breeding operations.
Officials said one operation was located in the Ford area and the other in the Suncrest area of Nine Mile Falls. While they were serving the warrants, members of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection service and local veterinarians were on scene to help contain, catalog and examine the animals.
Authorities said 89 dogs and puppies were found at the Ford location in various states of health conditions. They said one puppy was found near death. They also found a carcass that was improperly disposed of. The dogs were living in filth and investigators had to wear hazmat suits while processing the scene, according to sheriff’s officials. The dogs were found in a 10 x 60 mobile home occupied by two people.
At the Suncrest location, authorities said 166 dogs were also found to be living in filthy conditions in a split-level home. They were also in various states of health.
Authorities said they had initially believed there would be 150 dogs total, including puppies. They ended up seizing 255 dogs between the two scenes, which outnumbered their resources. Almost all of the dogs seized are small breeds.
Investigators said the operation had been planned for several weeks in order to overcome the logistical hurdles in seizing, housing, feeding and providing medical attention to all of the animals.
American Human and Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team went to Stevens County several days prior to set up a temporary shelter and housing.
Authorities said they had previous knowledge of the dog breeding operation in Suncrest. They credit the hard work and persistence of Deputy Jessica Garza that helped establish probable cause in order to get a warrant. Garza was recently given an award for her efforts in cracking down on animal cruelty in the county. Officials said the Ford area operation had only recently come to their attention. The investigators and volunteers worked up to 19 hours just on the day of the operation alone.
Officials said the people living in both residents are likely facing charges that could include cruelty to animals and violations of dog breeding statutes. They said felony charges in at least one instance is also possible.
Authorities are not releasing the names or addresses of the four individuals involved due to pending official charges from the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office.
All of the dogs have been checked by veterinarians and are receiving medical attention if needed.
If you would like to help these animals, the Stevens County Sheriff recommends donating money to HEART of Spokane.