About 140 neglected dogs have been seized from an "animal rescue" warehouse in Brooks, north of Salem, and the organization's president, a 24-year old Salem woman, has been arrested and charged with 120 counts of second-degree animal neglect and one count of tampering with evidence.
Willamette Valley Animal Rescue, 8955 Pueblo Avenue in Brooks, is listed on Petfinder.com as a volunteer organization whose goal it is to find homes for hard to place dogs.
Marion County sheriff's spokesman, Officer Don Thomson said Monday that "attention was focused on the organization after our office received several complaints about the care of the animals and the conditions of the facility."
Thomson said sheriff's deputies and code enforcement officers tried to work with the operators of the facility to resolve these complaints without taking formal enforcement action.
"Unfortunately, our efforts were met with a lack of cooperation," Thomson said in a news release. "We also became aware that the Oregon Humane Society had received complaints about the facility, but their efforts to work with the owners were blocked when they were denied access to inspect the facility."
Former employees and complainants told deputies the facility housed as many as 130-150 dogs in the 7,500-square-foot warehouse building.
The animals were kept in multiple dog kennels, some in and 4' x 6' dog runs, some in crates normally used for transporting animals. They also indicated that the animals were often fed only stale bread instead of normal dog food.
Based upon these recent reports, a formal investigation was opened, Thomson said.
At about 10 a.m. Sunday, Senior Deputy Dale Huitt stopped a car driven by 24-year-old Alicia Marie Inglish, president of the rescue facility.
Thomson says Huitt saw her arrive at the facility with four more.
Inglish was arrested and booked into the Marion County Jail. She was held on $300,000 bail until Monday afternoon's arraignment.
The Salem Statesman Journal says Judge David Leith set Inglish's bail at $55,000 on Monday and said she's not permitted to have any contact with animals.
Deputy Huitt secured a search warrant for the property, signed by Marion County Circuit Judge Cortland Geyer.
Around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, deputies and humane society investigators entered the building.
The building was filled with over 140 dogs in various stages of care. Some were freely running about the building, others were caged in wire dog runs.
Numerous transportation carriers were filled with as many as four dogs, when they were designed for only one, Thomson said.
"We found no food available top the animals," he said, "and the little water we found in the cages was undrinkable due to garbage and foreign objects spoiling it."
Many of the dogs appeared to be extremely underweight and suffering from starvation and malnutrition, the officer said. Others appeared sick and some had their eyes sealed shut with body fluids.
The cages had some sawdust on the cold cement floors, but no bedding was available to the animals, Thomson said. The building had no staff or personnel on duty to care for the dogs. One dog had his head stick in the wire cage as he'd try to get out of the cage.
Most of the cages were filled with animal feces and urine. The sawdust spread on the cement floor failed to provide an adequate sleeping area for the number of dogs in each cage. Several kennels were stacked against a wall like cordwood. None contained water or food, but all were overcrowded with dogs, Thomson said.
About 30 pounds of dry dog food and several cans of wet dog food were found in the building, Thomson said -- not nearly enough to feed the number of dogs present.
The officer said 120 of the animals present met the legal standard for neglect, though the remaining dogs still need some care.
Oregon Humane Society Veterinarian Dr, Kris Otteman, who is also the director of shelter medications at OHS, began the long task of examining and ranking the animals in order of need for care.
"The condition of these animals is terrible," Otteman said. "They are lacking the basic care needed to survive. I found no food available to them, and the water in their cages was filled with stench. "
" I saw one animal stuffed into a cage that was so small he was unable to lie down, sit or stand up. He had no food or water in the cage, and I'm not sure how long he'd been left in that condition. I saw another cage that contained four dogs; it was designed for one. These dogs need immediate medical care."
Oregon Humane Society volunteers, the Willamette Humane Society, code enforcement officers and sheriff's K-9 deputies worked through the night gathering up and triaging the animals.
The seized animals have been sent to several state and county facilities to begin their treatment that will hopefully lead to some recovery. A total of 21 deputies and volunteers worked throughout the night to provide much need care to these animals, Thomson said.
Veterinarians will examine each of the animals, with the focus to provide for the immediate needs of each animal, Thomson said.
Because the case remains an active investigation, the animals seized are considered evidence. At some later time, they may become available for adoption or placement.
Thomson said more arrests are expected in the case
Anyone with information pertaining to this investigation is encouraged to contact Sr. Deputy Dale Huitt at email@example.com.
"Our office extends its appreciation to our deputies, our partners and the volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the night to care for these animals," Thomson said.
A news release from the Oregon Humane Society:
Major rescue brings more than 100 dogs to OHS for care
In one of the largest pet rescues in Oregon history, authorities seized nearly 150 dogs last night from a warehouse near Salem. The Oregon Humane Society is now evaluating the medical condition of 110 dogs taken to OHS and will be working to restore their health.
“The conditions these dogs were housed in were shocking,” said OHS Executive Director Sharon Harmon. “Our hope is to get them healthy and into homes as soon as the legal system allows.” The dogs are currently being held as evidence and are not available for adoption.
A total of 149 dogs were seized by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with OHS from a warehouse in Brooks, outside of Salem. The sheriff charged the owner with 120 counts of Second Degree Animal Neglect and one count of tampering with evidence.
In the meantime, the arrival of the rescued pets has put the OHS at double its capacity for dogs. With more than 80 dogs available for adoption, Harmon is urging the public to adopt a dog now and help relieve crowded conditions at the shelter. OHS is also reducing the price of all dogs one year and older to $50 through the end of January.
The public can also help by visiting the OHS Website, where there is a “wish list” of needed items and where financial donations can be made. Visit: http://www.oregonhumane.org/donate/needed_supplies.asp to see the wish list and/or make a donation.