Nursed back to health, previously neglected dog ready for new home

SILVERDALE —The smell of ammonia wafting from inside the shuttered trailer was so overpowering that Kitsap County Sheriff's Office deputy Brad Trout was forced to don his gas mask before entering.

Inside, the scene was worse. Beer cans littered the floor, which was caked several inches high with animal feces. There, Trout found Harley, an eight-year-old pit bull mix, emaciated and alone.

"His skin was in awful condition," said Natalie Smith, director of animal welfare for Kitsap Humane Society, where Harley has been cared for since he was found in January.

"In addition to being underweight, he had patches of missing hair from malnutrition; his eyes were totally glued shut with infection."

Kitsap Animal Rescue officers responded to the trailer where Harley was found, on the 14400 block of Tall Firs Avenue in Port Orchard, and took him to the shelter for medical aid. The resident of the trailer was nowhere to be found.

At the shelter, KHS veterinarians drew blood to make sure his liver was working properly, and then put him on a slow-feeding diet to get help get him back to a healthy weight.

Almost four months after his ordeal, Harley is ready for a new home.

Harley has gained almost 15 pounds since January, and despite a limp and lingering dry eye, is as healthy and happy as ever, Smith said. Staff members let him sit up front behind the desk to greet potential families as they walk in. He has been available for adoption since February, and his adoption fees have been sponsored by an anonymous donor.

"He's just so people-centric that with all he's gone through we wanted to make sure he gets as much time with people as he can," Smith said.

KHS sees cases of animal neglect or abuse like Harley's between three and six times a year, according to Smith. "Neglect" refers to animals that aren't given basic care, as opposed to animals that are actively beaten or abused in other ways by their owners.

"Those do pop up; we're really lucky in Kitsap County to not have that happen that frequently, but when it does I think it makes it all the more shocking and disappointing," Smith said.

The shelter also receives a high volume of stray animals in poor shape. While they do their best to care for every animal, the nature of being stray makes it difficult to hold owners accountable, Smith said.

There have been 10 reported cases of animal abuse or neglect in unincorporated Kitsap since 2010, according to sheriff's office spokesman Scott Wilson.

Harley was found when a neighbor who shared a well with the tenant of the trailer called the sheriff's office to ask for a deputy to check on the trailer, according to Wilson. The deputy who responded to the initial call was contacted en route to the trailer, Wilson said, by a woman claiming to be the niece of the owner of the trailer. She reportedly told the deputy that Harley's owner, Jon Wood, had moved to the Tacoma area but returned "once in awhile" to feed the dog.

When contacted by the sheriff's office, Wood said he had last fed Harley the day before. He later admitted that he hadn't been to the trailer "in awhile," according to sheriff's office documents.

The sheriff's office filed a report with the county prosecutor's office but didn't arrest Wood. In March, Wood was charged in Kitsap Superior Court with 1st-degree animal cruelty. He's set to go to court this month.

Smith said a lot of factors play into cases like Harley's, including economic status and mental health of pet owners. While it may not have been intentional neglect, that doesn't make it right.

"He obviously was well-socialized with people at some point, so whether someone fell on hard times or he got passed on to someone who didn't care as much, we can't really say," Smith said.

She hopes that knowing Harley's backstory will encourage someone to adopt him.

"He really has gone through so much; he does have this amazing story that I think will help someone fall in love with him," Smith said.

Copyright 2017 Kitsap Sun


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