Yesterday the Olympian posted an article about a Washington rescue group called Furever Homes Dog Rescue that has been heavily criticized by Joint Animal Services of Thurston County and some of its adopters about the conditions in which the dogs live.
The article noted that the Furever Home’s founder, Sharon Gold, keeps all the group’s 85 dogs in a warehouse next to her home in Tumwater. The only opportunity the dogs have to go outside is when they are “are herded into a small fenced area in the parking lot” about the size of a bedroom.
According to the reporter who visited the warehouse, the “stench of feces and urine” inside the warehouse “can trigger your gag reflex.”
And a women who adopted a dog from the group said in the article that “I’ve been to a lot of different shelters. I’ve never seen anything so filthy in my life” and “Anybody that takes care of animals like that shouldn’t be taking care of any animal.”
The dog she adopted had kennel cough, a common ailment dogs can get when they inhale bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract and can be caused by “exposure to crowded and/or poorly ventilated conditions, such as are found in many kennels and shelters.”
But despite the fact that, as the article noted, Forever Homes “has been the subject of calls about crowding, dirty kennels, barking and the occasional loose dog,” Forever Homes and Sharon Gold have managed to escape prosecution.
Joint Animal Services director Susanne Beauregard told the Olympian that the reason her office hasn’t filed charges against Gold is because, “We have never found anything that I would deem prosecutable in any of the complaints we have ever received.”
How can a small rescue keep 85 dogs crammed in cages in a filthy, smelly, hot warehouse with only a handful of people to care for them?
Because it’s legal.
According to Ms. Beauregard,“We don’t have any kennel standards in Thurston County, so I don’t have any standards to hold her to in terms of long-term care.”
But what about state law? Surely one of the most progressive states in the country has laws that would give Joint Animal Services the authority to shut down an operation that has almost 3 times more dogs than it currently has available for adoption, right?
RCW 16.52.310, Section 2 does have specific requirements (such as crate size, minimum exercise standards, protection from the elements, etc.) that breeders with more than 10 dogs over six months old with intact sexual organs must meet. However, since most rescues don’t have more than 10 intact dogs, they don’t have to comply with this law.
And even if they did, the law specifically exempts private, charitable not-for-profit humane societies or animal adoption organizations.
Washington’s animal cruelty laws (RCW 16.52.205 and 16.52.207) aren’t much help either because they apply to people that intentionally inflict pain and suffering on animals which can be difficult to prove in court unless the abuser is caught in the act or the animals show obvious signs of neglect.
Because of the vagaries and loopholes in Washington law, almost anyone can start a rescue and run it with virtually no oversight from regulatory agencies.
This is shameful, and it must change. The Washington Legislature needs to pass regulations that give authorities to crack down on shady rescues by holding them to specific standards they must meet regardless of how many dogs they have.
I plan to start a dialogue with legislators and animal protection groups to ensure this happens as quickly as possible. We can no longer give these renegade rescues a pass and allow them to operate with practically no oversight.