SEATTLE — A 54-year-old West Seattle man could face felony charges after being arrested Thursday for investigation of animal cruelty. By Friday morning, the more than 220 live animals found on the man's property were receiving care. Most were taken to the Seattle Animal Shelter to receive treatment for severe neglect and malnourishment.
Seattle police served a search warrant on the property in the 5600 block of 26th Avenue SW on Thursday, and found 77 rabbits, 128 guinea pigs, seven chickens, two mice, seven chinchillas, and three dogs. Some of the animals were discovered in small cages without food or water, according to court documents released Friday.
In other buildings on the property, deceased animals were found. Investigators are still working to determine the exact number, but estimate that it could be in the hundreds, according to Seattle Animal Shelter.
“This is the worst case of animal neglect and cruelty I’ve seen in more than 20 years of doing this work, and it’s quite possibly the worst case our shelter has ever handled,” said Seattle Animal Shelter Director Ann Graves.
Karla Boyd is still struggling to understand what she witnessed on her street on Thursday.
"They started about 11 and they didn't stop until six last night. It took a long time for them to get everything out of there," said Boyd about the police investigation at her neighbor's home. "I'm just surprised that there was that amount of animals, and that much death in there too."
Passersby, like Andy Fenkner, are now looking at the property much differently.
"How could someone want to do that to a poor innocent animal," asked Fenkner. "It's just, my mind cannot even fathom that."
"As in many animal welfare cases, the discovery and seizure of these animals was in part thanks to a vigilant community member who saw something and said something," Graves said.
"If I would have had any idea, I would have been the one calling, but I didn't know. I just, we couldn't tell," said Boyd. "I don't want to see him come back home anytime soon. I want him to get some help before he comes back."
The suspect, who KING 5 is not naming because he has not been charged yet, had his first appearance in court Friday afternoon. The judge set bail at $7,500 with the condition that he not be around animals.
According to the Seattle Animal Shelter, the number of severe animal cruelty cases this year has more than doubled when compared to previous years. The average numbers of those cases over the past five years is 12. In the past 10 months alone, the shelter has sent 27 cases to either city or county prosecutors, according to a press release.
First degree animal cruelty is a Class C felony punishable by five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
If you suspect an animal is being harmed, please contact the shelter at 206-386-7387.