The white Chihuahuas started popping up all over Lewis County last week. Some were dumped by the side of the road. Some were in the woods. Eventually, Lewis County residents found 21 abandoned Chihuahuas ranging in age from 9 months to 10 years old and turned them over to the Lewis County Animal Shelter.
Although no one knows who dumped the Chihuahuas around Lewis County, Shelter Manager Amy Hanson told me that she suspected they came from backyard breeder because they all appeared to be purebred, had health problems like missing/no teeth, weren’t spayed/neutered, and had unclipped nails.
Ms. Hanson believes she knows which breeder dumped the puppies and dogs but cannot identify him/her without getting more information.
So why would a backyard breeder who can sell Chihuahua puppies for $1000 or more dump such valuable inventory?
One of the new regulations closed a loophole in the Revised Code of Washington 16.52.310 (1) which says: “A person may not own, possess, control, or otherwise have charge or custody of more than fifty dogs with intact sexual organs over the age of six months at any time.”
The loophole, Ms. Hanson told me, is that the RCW only limits the number of dogs a person can have, but it doesn’t limit the number of dogs breeder can have on their property.
That means sneaky backyard breeders can (and do) skirt the law, for example, by having 200 intact dogs on their property and claiming that 4 different people each owned 50 of the dogs.
The Board of Commissioners closed this loophole by adding this clarification to the Breeding Practices section of the Lewis County Code 6.15.020 (3) (a):
“A person or persons shall not house or keep more than 50 dogs with intact sexual organs over the age of six months on the same property regardless of who owns, controls, possesses or has charge of the dogs.”
Another issue with the RCW is the requirement for breeders to have kennel licenses and allow annual inspections of facilities.
The problem is, it doesn’t exist.
That’s right, Washington doesn’t require dog breeders to submit to inspections or have a license to operate. And unless they obtain permission from a breeder, law enforcement/animal control cannot inspect a breeder’s facility without a search warrant.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does require breeders to allow an inspection to obtain a license. The agency also does conduct annual inspections, but it is so understaffed and underfunded that it can only inspect a fraction dog breeding facilities in the US per year.
The Puppy Mill Project found that in 2010 the USDA only has 110 inspectors for an estimated 8782 breeding facilities. It’s also responsible for monitoring animal exhibitors, research facilities, and animal transports.
This means that once a breeding facility gets a license, the chances that it will be inspected by the USDA are slim, especially if it is a smaller facility.
Lewis County addressed this by adding Section 5.25 to the Lewis County Code. It requires an onsite inspection of a dog breeding facility before it can obtain a license. The license must be renewed annually, and officials must be allowed to inspect the facility before renewing a license. If the breeder won’t allow inspectors on the property, he/she can be cited and/or shut down.
Lewis County Code Compliance Supervisor Bill Teitzel told Lewis County Sirens that “over the past six to eight months, the same type of dogs have been dumped in a similar fashion in similar locations, although never this many.”
Mr. Teitzel’s office is responsible for enforcing the Lewis County Codes. Like Ms. Hansen, he believes that breeders are dumping dogs as the new regulations are enforced.
“They seem to coincide with things we’re doing at this office,” he told the Lewis County Sirens.
All the dogs and puppies that people brought to the shelter will be available for adoption after getting vaccinations and spayed/neutered. A few have already been adopted, others went to the Seattle Animal Shelter. If you’re interest in adopting the remaining dogs, contact:
The saga of the Chihuahuas dumped last week is yet another example of the weaknesses of Washington’s animal cruelty laws. The state should require breeders to be licensed and limit the number of dogs can be on a breeders property. Law enforcement officials should not have to get a search warrant to inspect breeders that are abusing dogs. Unscrupulous breeders should not be allow to operate virtually unregulated.
Thanks to all the people that found dumped chihuahuas and to the Lewis County Animal Shelter for treating their medical problems and finding homes for them.
And THANK YOU to the Lewis County Board of Commissioners for addressing Washington’s weak animal protection laws by passing tougher standards that backyard breeders in the county must meet.