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255 dogs seized from illegal breeding operations

STEVENS COUNTY, Washington — The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office is investigating illegal dog breeding operations, and served two search warrants simultaneously this week. One operation was located in the Ford area and the other in the Suncrest area of Nine Mile Falls.

During the service of the warrants, members of SCRAPS (Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service) and local veterinarians were on scene to help contain, catalog, and examine the animals.

At the Ford location, investigators discovered approximately 89 dogs and puppies in various states of health conditions. One puppy was near death, and a carcass that was improperly disposed of was located. The dogs were living in filth and investigators had to wear hazmat suits while processing the scenes. These dogs were contained within a 10×60 mobile home occupied by two people.

At the Suncrest location, 166 dogs were also found to be living in filthy conditions in a split level home. They were also in various states of health. Again, investigators wore hazmat suits to process the scene.

It was initially believed there would be approximately 150 dogs total including puppies. 255 dogs were seized between the two scenes, which quickly outnumbered the resources in place. This operation had been planned for several weeks in order to overcome the logistical hurdles in seizing, housing, feeding, and providing medical attention to this many dogs. American Humane as well as HEART (Humane Evacuation Animal Rescue Team) came to Stevens County several days prior to set up a temporary shelter and housing. Without the assistance of all the agencies involved, this operation would have been impossible to undertake by the Sheriff’s Office alone. We are now diligently working to be able to effectively deal with the large amount of dogs. Fortunately, almost all of the dogs seized are small breeds.

Authorities had previous knowledge of the dog breeding operation in Suncrest, however it wasn’t until recently through the outstanding work and persistence of Deputy Jessica Garza that probable cause for law violations could be established and a warrant obtained. The Ford area operation had only recently come to the attention of the Sheriff’s Office. The investigators and volunteers worked up to 19 hours just on the day of the operation alone.

The occupants of both residences are likely facing charges that could include cruelty to animals and violations of dog breeding statutes. Felony charges in at least one instance are also possible. The names and addresses of the four individuals involved are not being released at this time pending official charging from the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office. All of the dogs seized have been checked by vets and are receiving medical attention if needed.

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