Multiple Complaints Against Backyard Breeder
Grays Harbor County could finally take action against a backyard breeder who has been the subject of multiple complaints for several years.
Gail Oaksmith has been breeding and selling dogs and since 2007. She primarily sells mixed breeds, some of which are “designer breeds” like labradoodles (labrador/poodle), chiweenies (dachshund/chihuahua), and puggles (pug/beagle).
Here are just some of the complaints about Ms. Oaksmith people sent to Grays Harbor County Animal Control since 2015:
“REQ CALL REF HORRIBLE LIVING CONDITIONS AT A “PUPPY FARM” AT LOC. OWNER’S NAME IS GAIL 360 273 4499 – URINE AND FECES EVERYWHERE, NO FOOD AND WATER VISIBLE.” (March, 2017)
“REQ CALL REF NEIGHBOR/GALE UNK LAST – 4 OF HER DOGS (A GREAT DANE, 2 RED IRISH SETTERS AND A SMALL BLK DOG) KILLED HER CAT ON HER PROPERTY PAST HOUR. ONGOING PROBLEM W/ THEM COMING ONTO HER PROPERTY. GALE HAS MANY DOGS.” (April, 2017)
“We purchased our dachshund mix puppy from Gail on 6/10/2018 and brought her in for a vet exam on 6/13. The attached results show positive test results for giardia and tapeworm.” (June, 2018)
“REQ CALL REF RP RESPONDED TO AD ON CRAIGSLIST FOR GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPIES A FEW DAYS PAST, SHE HAD MULT DIFF BREED DOGS IN TENTS OUTSIDE, PUPPIES DID NOT HAVE CLEAN WATER, HAD NO FOOD, RP TOOK 2 DOGS DUE TO FEELING BAD AND THEY HAD FLEA INFESTATIONS, EAR INFECTIONS, UNDERWEIGHT.” (September, 2018)
“The floors of the pen were soaked in mud from the rain and fecal matter everywhere, all the puppies completely covered, and loose chicken wire was in their cages which have left scars on their bellies from running over the top of it. Gail stated that she had not fed the dogs yet today. Then to the left of the pen we noticed a small Pomeranian with most of its hair missing and one eye missing. Gail informed us that she could not let it out of its pen because it had lost its eye, the dog was extremely lethargic.” (September, 2018)
“Driving back to gig harbor we immediately noticed the state the puppies we collected were in. Both dogs were covered in fleas from head to toe, both were extremely skinny with swollen sickly bellies.” (September, 2018)
“After arriving to our home, we directly went to bathe and remove fleas from both pups. We had to completely renew the water in the tub 4 times because it was repeatedly black with mud from the puppies. We combed out hundreds of fleas and larvae from the puppy’s bodies.” (September, 2018)
“both puppies had contracted every parasite that known in the state of Washington and that these were the most elaborate samples that they had seen.” (September, 2018)
“40-60 DOGS AT LOC IN POOR HEALTH AND LIVING IN BAD COND, APPEARS SOME HAVE BEEN FIGHTING THERE WAS 1 W/ OPEN WOUNDS ON FACE.” (November, 2018)
“We paid 200 for one of the puppies, and were giving an incomplete shot record. Many of the dogs were generally in poor health and many had missing legs or eyes.” (December 2018)
“REQ CALL REF GAIL OAKSMITH WHO LIVES AT LOC, RP WENT THERE TO PURCHASE A PUPPY ON SATURDAY AND THERE WERE MORE DOGS THEN SHE WAS ABLE TO COUNT. MULT DIFF BREEDS IN DIFFERENT PLACES ON THE PROPERTY. THE SMALLER BREED DOGS ARE IN THE HOUSE, USING THE BATHROOM, VERY UNSANITARY CONDITIONS – RP STILL PURCHASED A PUPPY, DOG SMELLED OF URINE AND FECES.” (September, 2022)
The most common complaints were that Ms. Oaksmith had too many dogs on the property and that the puppies people bought had giardia and/or several types of worms.
Nicole Pollard is the Animal Control Officer for Grays Harbor County. I asked her, given the number of complaints filed against Ms. Oasksmith, how this puppy mill has been allowed to continue operating operating and why she never recommended that charges should be filed against Ms. Oaksmith. Here are her explanations.
Too Many Dogs on Property
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) states that “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.” (RCW 16.52.310(1))
In other words, as long as a breeder doesn’t have 50+ dogs over 6 months of age with intact sexual organs, there is no limit to the number of dogs breeders can have on their property.
In a memo from 2018, Officer Pollard noted that Ms. Oaksmith “has a large number of adult dogs and their offspring on her property. Most of the time she is right around the maximum number of unaltered adult dogs that are over the age of six months (50). The number of young offspring varies. It is not uncommon to find a total of 80-100 dogs on her property.”
This is a huge loophole that backyard breeders can exploit. There should be some limit to the number of dogs a breeder can have on their property regardless of how many of them have sexually intact organs.
By all accounts, Ms. Oaksmith runs a disorganized system with dogs haphazardly scattered around the property.
Some are in fenced areas, some are in her house, others run free on the property. If she had close to the maximum of intact dogs over six months old on her property I can’t see how she could monitor/control their breeding.
Allowing a backyard breeder like Ms. Oaksmith to have so many dogs on her property is ridiculous.
Multiple Puppies Infested with Parasites
I believe the rule most applicable to Ms. Oaksmith is RCW 16.36.082 which states:
(1) It is unlawful for any person to sell, exchange, or give away any animal that he or she knows:
(a) Is infected with any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease;
(b) Has been exposed to any contagious, communicable, or infectious disease within the previous thirty days; or
(c) Has been treated for any condition within the previous thirty days;
Ms. Oaksmith knows that she sold multiple puppies diagnosed with giardia and other parasites, primarily worms. She claims a vet told her she couldn’t do anything about it giardia because “it was everywhere in the ground and water. Oaksmith advised that she just warns people when they purchase a puppy/dog that she has had giardia on the property.”
WSDA Oversees Animal Health, Parasite Regulations
When I asked Officer Pollard why she didn’t cite Ms. Oaksmith for violating RCW 16.36.082, she told me something I didn’t know: The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and/or its local agents are responsible for enforcing regulations regarding animal health and parasites.
Officer Pollard forwarded the reports of giardia and other parasites in the puppies she sold to the WSDA and Jeff Nelson, the Environmental Health Director for Grays Harbor County; both Mr. Nelson and John Price from the WSDA declined to take action against Ms. Oaksmith because “the risk (of transmission) to the public and other animals was very low.”
WSDA Concerned How Parasites Effect Humans, Not Dogs
I asked Mr. Nelson to clarify the RCW because it doesn’t appear to give any leeway with regard to enforcement. Specifically, according to the wording of RCW 16.36.082, the law applies regardless of how low the risk of transmission may be.
However, Mr. Nelson noted that the WSDA and its local agents cannot cite a breeder for selling puppies full of parasites unless there’s a threat to the public health of humans.
In other words, because the parasites in the puppies purchased from Ms. Oaksmith didn’t threaten public health, he had no legal justification to cite her for violating RCW 16.36.082.
So if you report a backyard breeder who sells dogs full of parasites, the WSDA will do nothing. And since animal control agencies don’t have the legal authority cite breeders for selling dogs full of parasites, unscrupulous breeders like Ms. Oaksmith can sell them with no concern about being held accountable.
Animal Control: No Evidence of Unhealthy Dogs/Puppies
On one of the reports that Officer Pollard submitted about Ms. Oaksmith in early 2018, Dave Pimentel, the former Deputy Sheriff of Grays Harbor County wrote a note to Officer Pollard that said, “Stay on top of this and let’s fix this problem. We will end up on the news before long with this.”
Yet Officer Pollard said that she had been to Ms. Oasksmith’s property multiple times but didn’t see any evidence of unhealthy dogs/puppies.
Officer Pollard also said she never saw puppies covered in filth and living in urine/feces as some people noted in their complaints.
Because Officer Pollard that Ms. Oaksmith had more dogs than the law allows, didn’t have the authority to enforce animal health regulations, and never found subpar living conditions for the dogs on Ms. Oaksmith’s property, she never recommended that the county take action against her.
She said she never told Ms. Oaksmith when she was going to inspect her property unless she made a “surprise” visit and Ms. Oaksmith wasn’t there.
Given the number and similarity of complaints for years regarding Ms. Oaksmith’s treatment of her dogs, I just don’t understand how Officer Pollard found no evidence of abuse or unhealthy animals.
In my opinion, either Ms. Oaksmith had advanced notice of pending inspections so she had time to clean up before officers arrived, or officers didn’t conduct a thorough inspection of her property.
New Complaint Shows Multiple Cases of Abuse by Backyard Breeder
Alyssa Mount is a dog groomer in Bonney Lake. She first became aware of Ms. Oaksmith’s breeding operation last September when a client told her about the puppy a friend bought from Ms. Oaksmith.
He said the breeder had a dog that was “in horrible condition that needed a groom asap.”
Here’s how Alyssa described the dog her client brought in:
“When he arrived, his new owner mentioned that he did not move at all and I noticed his nose and up his snout was all black which was odd for a golden colored dog. As soon as I got him into the tub and starting running the water on him, the black on his snout started to move around I quickly realized he was infested with fleas. As I ran the water more along his back and body, the water that was running off was bloody and I could see hundreds and hundreds of fleas crawling all over him.”
The client told Alyssa that Ms. Oaksmith still had two of the puppy’s littermates. Assuming they were also in terrible condition, she decided to go with 2 friends to Ms. Oaksmith’s property to see the dogs there for herself.
Backyard Breeder’s Property Covered with Fleas and Feces
Here’s what Alyssa told me they saw when the arrived at Ms. Oaksmith’s property:
“When we arrived, we noticed a cream poodle tied to a pole to the left while approx. 20 other adult dogs ran around us and the car and the property. While we were still in the car, I saw poodles, golden retrievers, basset hounds, golden doodles and a boston terrier running up to the car. The moment that we got out of the car, I noticed fleas jumping all over us (I was wearing open toed shoes) from the ground and the dogs that were greeting us…..She took us to the puppies on her back deck that had poop all over and broken chicken wire.
Some of the dogs were “Boston terrier pug mixes and French bulldogs that had chunks of hair missing.” Ms. Oaksmith then showed her a Pomeranian that had “extremely thin hair and said that she once had beautiful Pomeranian hair but she too had ripped her own hair out.”
Most of the puppies were covered in feces and fleas.
Alyssa bought 7 dogs of the worst looking dogs from Ms. Oaksmith that day – 5 doodle mixes and 2 standard poodles. The doodles were 17 weeks old and the poodles were 7 months old.
Flea-infested Dogs, Bloody Bath Water
After Alyssa and her friends arrived at her home with the dogs, they began the arduous process of cleaning them up. Alyssa said the dogs’ fur was so matted she had to shave all of them.
She then had to bathe them 4 times to get rid of all the fleas. The dog had so many fleas, the bath water turned bloody.
One of the dogs also “had an ear infection, anemia, parasites, and an infected hind end wound that needed antibiotics.”
While she was at the property, she also saw a black poodle that was “extremely skinny.” When Alyssa asked if she could buy him, Ms. Oaksmith told her that she couldn’t sell him because he was “extremely sick and she is treating him for parasites.”
Ms. Oaksmith also told her that she didn’t want Alyssa to sue her “if he dies after we take him home.” She did agree to sell Alyssa his 2 littermates.
Another Trip to Rescue Starving Dog
Although she had her hand full with the 7 dogs she bought/saved, Alyssa couldn’t get the image of the skinny, listless black poodle that Ms. Oaksmith refused to sell out of her mind, so she called to see if she could buy him.
“I called Gail every day to ask if I could have Oliver (sick black poodle) and she said that she didn’t want to get sued so she’s not going to sell him. She finally said that I could have a black 2 year old female that she has and I could take Oliver if I bought her for $400 but I had to sign a paper that said I wouldn’t sue her and that I know he is sick and may die.”
Alyssa and a friend then went back to the property to pick up the two dogs. Alyssa said the female she agreed to buy in order to save Oliver “smelled like gas. And Oliver was “covered in fleas and urine.”
While walking back to the car her friend saw a dog that Gail said was “the ugliest dog on her property.” She told me that she didn’t adopt Dolly out because she had entropion in both eyes and that she didn’t want to spend $700 on surgery and that her eyes fixed themselves and by then she was too old for anyone to want her.”
She and Alyssa ended up taking Dolly as well.
Oliver “Should Not Be Alive”
Like the other dogs Alyssa rescued, these three dogs were filthy and covered in fleas. But as she shaved Oliver’s hair in order to bathe him, Alyssa realized he was in much worse condition than she originally thought.
After shaving and bathing Oliver, Alyssa said she could see “every bone in his body.”
As she washing him, she also noticed an untreated wound on his hind leg.
You can see from the pictures and videos that Oliver didn’t just suffer from neglect. He endured unimaginable cruelty that in my opinion was nothing short of torture.
Both ER vets who treated Oliver said “he should not be alive.”
Alyssa bought a total of 12 dogs from Ms. Oaksmith and spent over $10,000 on their medical bills. She ended up adopting Oliver and found homes for all the other dogs.
Statements About Condition of Other Dogs
Here are statements from two people who adopted dogs that Alyssa rescued:
“Birdie has & continues to be fearful of humans. She also takes time to warm up to any other animal. One vet described her as depressed. Her diet has gotten better but at the beginning she would not eat anything other than chicken. Birdie has had fleas since I adopted her.
She was given IV fluids along with other treatments through IV @ her first visit with Sumner Veterinary Clinic. She has been taking oral medication for fleas along with eye & ear treatments.
Her temperament has been hard to watch because she’s scared of everything. Anytime I need to take her somewhere I must physically pick her up & carry her because she’s scared to go anywhere with me. It’s been 15 days & she’s still scared of me & humans in general. I will reach out to Sumner Veterinary & Edgewood Veterinary & ask them to please speak with officer Pollard because these animals don’t deserve what they’ve been through.
I helped with grooming each of the dogs bought from the puppy mill and also took one of the goldendoodles in. It was heartbreaking to see the condition each of the dogs were in.
They were all crawling in fleas and terrified. They all seemed too skinny for their age and were vomiting. Their stools had newspaper and puppy pads in them. You can tell they came from very rough conditions.“
“Taking care of my dog, Gracie, she was very scared of humans. She would cower each time we walked into the room. She had little to not appetite and would throw up after she did eat anything. Luckily I already have another dog that she has become attached to and he has taught her a lot. She can now go up and down stairs. Will eat a meal and then some and has come to trust us. It took about 2 weeks for her to finally feel safe and able to run around the back yard like a regular puppy. I was able to care for my dog for a week before I could get her seen by a vet. She had infections in her ears and a hernia on her belly. Had I been able to take her in sooner I think her blood test results would’ve read worse.”
Possible Animal Cruelty Charges?
Alyssa filed her complaint about the condition of the dogs she rescued to Officer Pollard at the end of September. Officer Pollard told me that after conducting an investigation into the complaint she submitted a report recommending charges against Ms. Oaksmith for animal cruelty.
Officer Pollard said that she submitted the report “through (her) chain of command.” If approved, her report will then go to the Grays County Prosecutor Norma Tillotson. She will determine whether or not to file criminal charged against Ms. Oaksmith.
Grays Harbor Prosecutor Last Hope for Prosecuting Breeder
Sadly, Ms. Tillotson is the last hope for the abused dogs on Ms. Oaksmith’s property.
The WSDA and the County Health Officer won’t take action because their focus is on human health; they don’t care if Ms. Oaksmith is selling unhealthy puppies full of parasites because it doesn’t threaten human public health.
Animal Control can’t cite Ms. Oaksmith for having too many dogs because Washington’s weak breeder regulations allow her to have as many dogs as she wants as long as she has 50 or fewer dogs with intact sexual organs.
Animal Control Officer Pollard says that despite the number of complaints about Ms. Oaksmith she has found no evidence to charge her with animal cruelty until Alyssa filed her complaint last fall.
Due to Washington’s lax enforcement of its already weak animal cruelty and breeder laws, unscrupulous backyard breeders have operated with virtual impunity for years.
However, no one can look at the pictures/videos of Oliver and not believe he suffered terrible abuse.
And the fact that Ms. Oaksmith had people sign statements that they wouldn’t sue her if the dogs died proves she knew dogs were in distress and desperately needed medical care.
Ms. Oaksmith’s abuse of these dogs was no aberration or one time occurrence. It was consistent, systematic and cruel. She chose to deny these dogs medical care and chose to let them suffer.
I’ll say it again: SHE CHOSE TO LET THEM SUFFER.
I urge Ms. Tillotson to hold Ms. Oaksmith accountable for her horrific abuse of these dogs, charge her with animal cruelty, and prohibit her from selling/owning dogs anymore.
If Ms. Oaksmith gets yet another pass for her abuse of dogs, it will show, for all intents and purposes, that Washington’s laws to protect dogs from backyard breeders are worthless.