BURLINGTON, Wash. — More than 100 dogs were seized from a property in Skagit County where they were living in deplorable conditions.
There are so many animals that need help that the Humane Society of Skagit Valley was forced to close to the public so workers can care for the animals.
"This is the one that really ripped my heart out," said Executive Director of Skagit Humane Janine Ceja, as she cradled a small puppy struggling to walk.
One of the puppy's hind legs is severely deformed and will have to be amputated. Workers believe it's a congenital defect likely due to inbreeding.
"I'm just so angry," said Ceja. "I'm angry because we allow people to do something like this."
The dogs were seized recently from a property near Sedro-Woolley. Authorities believe it was either a puppy mill or a hoarding situation
Humane Society workers examined the dogs and determined they were given the bare minimum of food and water. Some of them weighed as little as three pounds.
The dogs arrived coated in urine and feces, with matted fur. Some of their nails were so long that they had a difficult time walking.
One of the dogs died after arriving at Skagit Humane.
"My team were already breaking down crying, having a very difficult time because it was too much at one time to go ahead and take in," said Ceja.
Volunteers have been donating time, money and supplies to the organization. On Monday, a volunteer came to shave the dogs' dirty, matted fur. Some have needed emergency veterinary care, but most appear to be sweet and well-behaved despite the conditions they were living in.
"I can't believe that someone could go to sleep at night knowing that the dogs are in that condition," said Ceja. "They're not able to enjoy anything."
Right now, Skagit Humane needs cash donations, cleaning supplies and jars of turkey or chicken baby food. Baby food is often used to help sick dogs get calories.
Skagit Humane's doors will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future while workers continue to care for the dogs. But they take comfort in knowing one thing.
"The dogs are safe now. That's what we have to think. They're safe now," said Ceja as she cuddled another dog, this one believed to be about 12 years old, his tongue flopping from his mouth because of his lack of teeth.
It will be a while before all the dogs are ready for adoption, Ceja said. The animals must all be nursed back to health.
Some still need surgeries and they all need to be spayed or neutered.
Prosecutors also still have to decide whether to bring charges against the property owner. If they do, the dogs may have to stay in custody until the case is adjudicated.
That could take weeks or months.
"When they are ready to go we're going to have an adoption party," said Ceja. "We will find them all good homes."