More than 400 dogs, including three newborn puppies, have been removed from a puppy mill that is being called “one of the worst cases” of animal abuse seen by animal groups and state officials.
“The conditions were not only shocking, but also heartbreaking to veteran deputies,” said Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor, who led the raid Wednesday at the Sun Valley kennel of 66-year-old Ella Stewart.
Dogs were found living in wooden crates, shopping carts and other makeshift kennels caked with feces and soaked with urine, investigators said. Detectives wore gloves and put booties on their shoes before walking onto the 2-acre property.
All the dogs will need medical care and some will require extensive treatment, Taylor said. Some dogs suffered from malnutrition while others had urine burns and overgrown nails.
Stewart was arrested May 12 after a deputy responded to an unrelated call at her neighbor’s home. Investigators said conditions at her kennel for breeding miniature American Eskimo dogs was deplorable.
Taylor said the dogs weren’t seized at the time because the county doesn’t have an animal control facility and had nowhere to house them. It also took time to find a licensed veterinarian and animal rescue groups to help, Taylor said.
The dogs will be placed in emergency kennels at the Benton County Fairgrounds.
Inga Gibson, state director with The Humane Society of the United States’ West Coast regional office, said it was “definitely one of the worst cases we have seen because of the conditions they were kept in.”
She also said the raid was “one of the largest in Washington state and close to one of the largest in the country.”
Stewart pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor count of second-degree animal cruelty in Benton County District Court. If convicted, she faces up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Prosecutors reviewing the case said they may file additional charges.
A telephone call to Stewart’s residence Thursday by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.