Furever Homes Dumped Dozens of Dogs at Thurston County Shelter
Records obtained by Seattle DogSpot from Joint Animal Services for Thurston County (JAS) show the shelter had over 100 cases detailing encounters with Furever Homes dog rescue and its founder Sharon Gold since 2010.
The vast majority of the incidents (93%) happened from 2013 through early 2016.
The reports show Gold dumped 50 dogs at the shelter simply because she had “too many dogs.” She also turned over 18 dogs to JAS for euthanization.
Legitimate dog rescue groups rarely, if ever, dump dogs at animal control because:
- Their mission is saving dogs. If a dog has behavior problems, they have a network of experts/trainers that will work with it so it can be adopted. If the problem is too severe for the dog to be adopted, the rescue will keep the dog and give it the best care possible for the rest of its life.
- If a dog has to be euthanized, they have someone accompany it to a veterinarian where it will get a dignified, peaceful death with a person to comfort the dog and ensure it won’t die alone.
- They avoid situations where they have “too many dogs” because they don’t take in more dogs than they can handle.
Conversely, Furever Homes gets weekly deliveries of dogs indiscriminately pulled from shelters in California or taken off the streets of Mexico. Gold then tries to adopt out the dogs as quickly as possible, usually without a comprehensive medical exam or behavior testing.
Sharon Gold’s Long List of Disturbing Behavior
I’ve already written about Gold and Furever Homes several times:
- Furever Homes rescue illegally brought puppies from Mexico into Washington
- Thurston County dog rescue turns military family’s fostering experience into a nightmare
- Furever Homes rescue is operating in violation of Thurston County codes
- Thurston County cracks down on Furever Homes Dog Rescue
- Judge issues restraining order against Furever Homes rescue director Sharon Gold
- After 3+ months, Furever Homes dog rescue still has too many dogs
- Washington state’s animal cruelty laws are a joke
Because these posts exposed a consistent and disturbing history of questionable actions by Gold, I ordered all the case reports documenting JAS’ encounters with Furever Homes.
To say the reports were not good would be an understatement of epic proportions – Gold’s file at JAS says she should be treated with “caution” and that she is “extremely hostile and belligerent to staff.” Several of the reports note she lied to shelter staff as well.
The dogs Gold dumped at JAS appear to be nothing more to her than trivial pieces of inventory that she casts aside to save money or because they’re to much trouble. One of the best examples of this is the story of a German Shepherd mix named Lolita.
LOLITA’S TRAGIC STORY
Lolita first appears in JAS’ records on 10/21/2010. The report said she was picked up as a stray by JAS and returned to Gold.
On 12/31/2010, Lolita got out again and attacked a dog. The owner called JAS to report what happened. Here’s how the call was recorded in JAS’ records:
“The lt. brown get shep type dog that lives at this address jumps out of the yard and runs the area on a regular bases.
The back yard is along the community park area.
Today about noon, the dog was already outside the fence, at large on public property, when it attacked the cp’s (complainant’s) dog. The cp was walking his dog on leash when the attack occurred. He was able to pull his dog away and the (other) dog left. The is the 2nd time it has happened to (name redacted), it has happened to his wife and the dog a couple of times as well. This is the first time it has been called in.
The cp will provide a written statement.”
The man who filed the complaint said he talked to his neighbors about Lolita both times it attacked their dog but “they seemed unconcerned about the aggressive behavior toward my dog.”
On 1/4/2011, JAS issued a Potentially Dangerous Dog Warning Notice about Lolita to Gold. It required that the dog be “physically contained on the owner’s property and must be on leash and under control if it leaves the owner’s property.”
On 2/8/2011, Lolita made her last trip to JAS. Gold surrendered her that day to be euthanized because “she is running away everyday, the neighbors are complaining and calling a/c all the time.”
This is what I meant when I noted earlier that dogs are nothing more than trivial pieces of inventory to Gold. Rescues that prioritize the welfare of their dogs would have done something to prevent Lolita from escaping and addressed any behavioral issues she had.
I know some Washington rescues that worked with problem dogs for a year or more before putting them up for adoption and then spent months looking for an appropriate home for them.
The records I obtained from JAS indicate that Lolita’s sad story is emblematic of how Gold operates Furever Homes.
SHARON GOLD USED JAS AS HER PERSONAL DUMPING GROUND FOR UNWANTED DOGS
Here are few more examples taken from Gold’s 100+ interactions with JAS. Remember that JAS is required to take dogs turned in by residents of its jurisdiction, and if someone wants their dog euthanized they must honor their request. JAS was able to find homes for most of the dogs Gold dumped there that weren’t euthanized while the rest were transferred to other shelters.
1/15/2013 – Gold brought in a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Chance that she took back from a recent adopter because of excessive chewing. Gold said Chance “LOVES other dogs, good with cats, housebroken and good with kids.” However, a note on the intake form by JAS staff said the dog was “unpredictable, aggressive without warning” and “not…safe” for adoption,” so JAS had to euthanize him.
The officer also noted that Gold “put down false info on the paperwork.” It appears she gave a false name when she brought in the dog because the officer crossed out the name on the form and wrote in Gold’s name.
5/22/13 – Someone found an injured dachshund in the middle of the road. It was dead by the time animal control officers arrived. JAS determined it was one of Sharon Gold’s dogs.
7/9/2013 – A man who walked by Gold’s suite said a dog “came running yapping and charging him.” The dog bit him on the calf through his work pants and left puncture wounds. The next day someone from brought the dog from Furever Homes to JAS to be euthanized.
7/25/2013 – A man filed a complaint with JAS because 2 dogs from Gold’s house chased his 7-year-old daughter. He said “the dogs there constantly run loose and chase people in the area.”
9/20/2013 – Gold brought a chihuahua with parvo to JAS and asked for her to be euthanized. The report didn’t say whether or not the dog had ever been taken to a vet.
6/8/2015 – Gold told JAS to euthanize a dog because “she is very scared at the rescue and will turn on dogs in a stressful environment.”
What kind of rescue would have a scared dog killed because it turned on other dogs while living in a crowded, stressful environment? That’s normal dog behavior. It was Gold’s fault for forcing her dogs to live in a stressful environment (the month after this dog was killed the Tacoma News Tribune reported that Gold had over 85 dogs in her home).
6/19/2015 – JAS reported Gold turned a dog over to animal control because it was a hermaphrodite and “is being attacked by other dogs.” The dog was “covered in feces” and “not in overall good health.” JAS found a home for it.
10/9/2015 – A person who fostered dogs for Gold brought a terrier/bichon mix to JAS. The dog’s record says “dog has bloody mucus stool, is lethargic, blind.” Gold asked JAS to euthanize it. Nothing in the record indicates a veterinarian ever examined the dog.
11/14/2015 – Claiming a male pit bull was a stray she didn’t want, Gold surrendered it to animal control. She signed a form saying she didn’t own the dog and didn’t know the owner. But a note on the report dated 11/20 says, “left vm for Sharon regarding her lying about the dog being stray.”
The dog’s profile on adoptapet.com and messages from Gold on screenshots show unequivocally that Forever Homes brought him up from Tijuana at least a month earlier.
1/25/2016 – In a bite report filed with JAS, a woman said a stray terrier mix from Furever Homes bit her on both hands after she stepped between it and her 3-year-old son.
2/20/2016 – Gold asked JAS to euthanize a “near comatose” female terrier mix named Leila she had gotten the previous evening. She told staff that “she had no idea what was wrong with it” so I assume the dog arrived in awful condition and was never taken to a vet.
3/1/16 – A woman brought a dog to JAS that she adopted from Gold about a month earlier. She said the dog had kennel cough when she adopted it. JAS had to euthanize the dog because it had distemper. JAS also reported that the dog had a staph infection and herpes.
The officer who took the dog noted in the report that she was “concerned about the health of the animal in this rescue and worried that diseases are being brought up from Mexico.”
In an article last February I wrote that a puppy from Furever Homes died from distemper. It arrived at Furever Homes from Mexico last December.
WebMD says “puppies and adolescent dogs who have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable to the distemper virus. They are typically rescues with unknown vaccination histories or have been bought from pet stores.”
Vaccinations and routine cleaning/disinfecting prevent distemper and other viruses like parvo. Several of the reports from JAS noted the dogs Gold left there had these viruses.
MULTIPLE COMPLAINTS FILED ABOUT FILTHY CONDITIONS
Several people filed complaints with JAS saying the dogs from Furever Homes lived in unsanitary conditions:
2/21/2013 – A person filed a complaint saying they saw “around 25 dogs inside a metal industrial building. Ventilation is inadequate and many of the dogs are sick. They are housed on linoleum in makeshift wire kennels.”
3/27/2013 – A complaint was filed regarding “a very strong ammonia smell” coming from Furever Homes’ suite. There were “about 30 dogs in the complex” and “garbage in front of the suite.”
5/2/2013 – Someone filed a complaint about conditions at Furever Homes. It said “pee, poop and food all over the place. Sick dogs and others are interacting. Also said a group of dogs attacked another and killed it.”
8/15/2013 – A complaint filed with JAS said “there are multiple dogs locked in a storage container and a foul smell coming from it. The windows on the container are boarded up.”
1/28/2014 – 2 people filed complaints with JAS regarding Furever Homes’ facility.
Complaint #1: “Visit in Jan. Smelled horrible! Too many dogs. Feces everywhere! I could not breathe. Said they had just brought in 30 more dogs from California. No ventilation except for 1 door.”
Complaint #2: “Went to check out dogs, was unable to breath in dog area! No ventilation, there were over 50 dogs. Feces and urine all over floor.”
1/30/2014 – A Banfield veterinarian filed a complaint because “she was concerned about this rescue.” She reported that someone brought in a puppy adopted from Sharon because it “had a very bad upper respiratory infection (URI) and was dehydrated.” She brought the puppy in again a few days later because it had parvo.
The vet said Sharon came to the clinic and informed them that “she has a parvo outbreak and (the puppy) has a URI.” She also said she had seen many dogs from Furever Homes “and they all had a severe URI infection.”
3/21/2014 – JAS picked up a stray dog and traced it to Furever Homes. An officer called Sharon Gold about the dog and told her it exhibited “frantic, unstable behavior.” Gold said she didn’t want the dog, and it was euthanized. The officer noted on the report that “all 4 paws were flea stained.
10/16/2014 – A person who had been at Furever Homes on 10/1 filed a complaint with JAS. She said “there was feces and urine everywhere. There are 20-40 dogs there. The smell was “ungodly” and “there was an older beagle there that was obviously ill, coughing and lethargic. There was a doberman with 3 legs that kept going after the other smaller dogs. The dogs were all smelly and dirty.”
1/9/2015 – Someone filed a complaint about Furever Homes with JAS that said “sick animals are in the facility and it smells like Parvo/Giaria/Illness and copious amounts of feces.”
6/23/2015 – An officer who had been at Furever Homes recently wrote “there were at least 100 dogs all running around tougher in filth (feces and urine). Stated the conditions were horrible. (The officer) adopted one of the dogs and took it to be groomer immediately because of the filth and to the vet where she was told the dog has kennel cough.”
JAS officers did check out the conditions at the various locations Gold ran Furever Homes after some of the complaints were filed and reported they weren’t as bad as had been described.
However, the number of complaints and consistency of the how the conditions were described by several people cannot be discounted. On at least some occasions, Gold also had advance notice before officers arrived and had time to clean up. One officer noted she was cleaning when they arrived.
Susanne Beauregard was JAS’ director for over 20 years and ran the organization when the majority of reports about and complaints against JAS were filed. She left last fall, and now Dr. Ric Torgerson oversees operations at JAS.
When I was in his office a couple of weeks ago I noticed a sign on his wall that said, “Be trouble for people who dare to put animals in jeopardy.” I hope that he and his staff will follow this philosophy and figure out how to hold Furever Homes accountable for its actions.
WHY IS FUREVER HOMES RESCUE STILL OPERATING?
The fact that Sharon Gold is still running Furever Homes is a farce, but after working to expose shady rescues and sanctuaries in Washington for the last couple of years, I’m not surprised no one has been able to shut her down because Washington has virtually no laws that regulate privately run rescues and sanctuaries.
Washington does have minimal requirements that dog breeders must follow. For example:
- housing facilities must “enable all dogs to remain dry and clean”
- dogs must have “easy and convenient access to adequate amounts of clean food and water”
- housing facilities and primary enclosures “must be kept in a sanitary condition” and “sufficiently ventilated at all times to minimize odors, drafts, ammonia levels”
- dogs over the age of four months must have “a minimum of one exercise period during each day for a total of not less than one hour of exercise during such day”
- they must provide veterinary care “without delay when necessary”
But for some reason, the law (RCW 16.52.310) exempts private, charitable not-for-profit humane societies and animal adoption organizations.
Washington does have animal cruelty laws that apply to private rescues, but because the laws are vague and weak, few people are charged with animal cruelty, and convictions are rare.
Furthermore, even when a private rescue violates animal cruelty laws, it cannot be held accountable unless local authorities enforce them, and that often doesn’t happen.
In the Olympian article about Furever Homes last summer, Susan Beauregard said, “I do think there should be an initial set of standards that people would have to meet before they can open a kennel.”
And Dr. Torger told me that the vagueness of Washington’s animal cruelty laws “is a problem.”
Remember the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” in Forks, WA? Despite overwhelming evidence that founder Steve Markwell kept well over 120+ dogs in crates and dark rooms in a metal warehouse, only provided the dogs food and fresh water periodically, rarely gave the dogs any exercise, and infrequently cleaned their tiny living spaces so they laid in their own urine and feces, local authorities did nothing to help the dogs.
Because Washington has such weak animal cruelty laws and exempts private rescues from any meaningful standards to protect dogs, the only agency with any significant enforcement power over Furever Rescue is the Thurston County Resource Stewardship Department.
That’s because, according to Thurston County’s Code of Ordinances, residents can’t have more than 3 dogs unless they have a kennel permit, and the Resource Stewardship Department issues kennel permits.
But despite an article in the Olympian last summer confirming that Gold was housing 85 dogs, the Resource Stewardship Department did nothing.
The Department finally issued a warning to Gold last February about having too many dogs and gave her a month to reduce the number of dogs she has to comply with the county ordinance. But since then the Department has extended its deadline multiple times.
WASHINGTON MUST REGULATE PRIVATE DOG RESCUE GROUPS
I don’t know how many dogs are living in Gold’s home now, but according to the group’s Facebook page she continues to import dogs from Mexico and California into Washington to resell through her rescue.
What I do know is that Furever Homes and other shady dog rescue groups in Washington will continue to operate until Washington passes legislation requiring them to provide a minimum standard of care for their dogs and limiting the number of dogs they can keep. And if local officials won’t enforce these laws, county and/or state officials should have the power to step in and hold these “rescues” accountable.
Until then, you can bet Gold will continue to operate Furever Homes without concern about law enforcement because, in my opinion, Furever Homes is a huge cash cow for Gold.
In last summer’s article in the Olympian, Gold said that she adopts out 20-40 dogs a month. She charges about $350 to adopt a dog, so the rescue pulls in $84,000 – $168,000 a year.
She also maximizes her profits by:
- not taking most of her dogs to be examined by a vet before they’re adopted
- treating sick dogs herself instead of taking them to the vet
- dumping old/aggressive/hard-to-adopt dogs at JAS
In addition, Gold’s antics waste taxpayer dollars. Every time JAS has to chase down one of her dogs that escaped, every time one of her dogs escapes and bites someone, every time someone files a complaint about the “ungodly” smell and filthy conditions of her rescue, every time she dumps a dog at JAS to be euthanized, and every time she dumps dogs at JAS she can’t adopt, it wastes staff time and resources.
I don’t dispute that Gold has saved dogs from euthenization and found loving families to adopt them. But lots of rescues do that without also dumping dozens of their hard-to-adopt dogs at animal control, denying their dogs medical care to save money, making them live in filthy conditions or importing dogs from thousands of miles away only to leave them, petrified and alone, to be euthanized at animal control.
Furever Homes is the poster child for what is wrong with dog rescue in Washington. But until the Legislature passes a law regulating rescues and requiring them to meet minimum standards of care for their dogs, shady rescues will continue to operate in the shadows with impunity, and many of the dogs they claim to have rescued will pay the price.
To ensure you adopt a dog from a reputable rescue, check out our list of rescues and shelters in Washington.
Thank you to UW graduate Serena Juma for organizing the data from the 100+ reports about Furever Homes from Joint Animal Services. Without her help I wouldn’t have been able to finish this post until approximately 2020.
Below is a 6 page summary of all the cases JAS had for Furever Homes. Note that an animal control officer checked “Caution” at the top right of the first page and at the bottom of the last page someone noted “Extremely hostile and belligerent to staff.”