A Yakima County man must vacate his home by Sunday after reporting to Yakima County Animal Control that his landlord’s dog froze to death.
Francisco Rodriguez also reported that his landlord has a German Shepherd that lives outside on a short chain 24/7.
Rodriguez contacted Yakima County Animal Control after he learned his landlord’s 14-year-old boxer froze to death.
Rodriguez posted videos of the dogs on Facebook after he contacted animal control. One of the videos showed the dead boxer covered in snow outside a makeshift dog house.
The other video showed the friendly German Shepherd in the yard on the end of a very short chain. Rodriguez told me she’s outside 24/7 and rarely has any contact with humans.
Rodriguez took down the videos due to pressure from his landlord.
After watching the videos yesterday I contacted Yakima County Animal Control to get clarification their response to Rodriguez’s report about his landlord’s dogs. Here is their response:
“The boxer that passed away had everything provided such as shelter, food and water. The boxer was 14 years old and has appeared to have died from old age. The shepherd is younger, very healthy looking and also has food, water and shelter. Shelter has straw to help keep dog warm. Boxer also had straw in the dog house. Owner will be disposing of body if not already done so. I could not find any evidence that the he neglected dog.”
This makes no sense to me.
According to the Yakima County Municipal Code 8.36.200: “It is unlawful for any person to physically abuse any dog or to fail to furnish adequate care, including without limitation water, food, shelter, sanitation, ventilation, rest and medical attention, or to confine a dog with any dangerous dog. Any person found guilty of a violation of this section shall be fined five hundred dollars for each violation.”
Unfortunately, the code is open to interpretation because its so vague. Technically the dogs had shelter (makeshift dog houses) with straw. But the daily high temperatures for Yakima never rose above freezing since January 1.
And it only rose above 15 degrees once at night to a balmy 24 degrees.
Most nights the temperature was about 10 degrees. On 3 nights it was below zero.
How does someone determine that it’s fine to leave a 14-year-old dog (or any dog for that matter) outside in sub-zero temperatures?
How low does the temperature have to go before someone will say, “you know, it’s abusive to leave a dog outside when it’s this cold”?
10 below? 20 below? 50 below?
As Rodriguez said in his videos, “these aren’t polar bears, they’re dogs.”
Coincidentally, KIMA reported today that Yakima County Officials Authorities said “pet owners could face a misdemeanor charge for animal neglect if pets are found in distress. Fines range from $250 to $5,000 depending on the severity.”
Since December Yakima County Animal Control has responded to 59 welfare checks since December. Can you guess how many citations officers wrote?
But there is some good news. Yakima County Animal Control Officer Ben Zigan told me today that “I am going to be contacting our legal department to see if we could look at our current laws and make some changes that would define “necessary shelter” and address age and characteristic traits of dogs in extreme hot and cold temperatures. It’s unfortunate that a situation like this must happen for laws to get changed.”
Many animal control officers want clearer laws that give them the authority to take action when necessary.
By reporting his landlord to animal control despite the threat of losing his home, Rodriguez may have paved the way for better animal protection regulations in Yakima County that could save many dogs in the future.
I wish you could have seen the videos before Rodriguez’s landlord forced him to take them down. As he shot the videos he said several times that he would probably get kicked out of his house if his landlord found out about them, but he expressed great concern and empathy for the dogs.
He was particularly upset that the landlord left the boxer’s body outside for about 5 days. He only moved it after Rodriguez called animal control. And the German Shepard is still on a short chain living outside 24/7. Animal control won’t take it because, of course, it’s not too cold to leave it outside.
I hope someone can convince him to give up the dog before it freezes too, because animal control isn’t going to do anything for it.
Rodriguez was extremely brave for posting the videos and reporting his landlord while knowing he would probably get thrown out of his house.
And that’s what happened.
Now he has to find a home for himself, his girlfriend, his 4-year-old daughter, and his two dogs by Sunday while working the night shift for a local company. (FYI, I saw both dogs on one of the videos and they looked healthy and happy.)
Like most people these days, Rodriguez and his family don’t have a big pile of cash they can use to pay a security deposit as well as first and last month’s rent. When I asked, he said it would cost about $2000.
Not surprisingly, he was horrified when I offered to start a campaign to raise the money. He told me he didn’t want people to think he’s trying to make money “out of a messed up situation.” He also said, “I’m very prideful and do not like to accept help unless I truly need it.”
Eventually, he said I could set up a fundraiser for him. He made it clear he didn’t want people to think he was running a scam to take advantage of the situation. He just needs enough to find a new home.
Now we need to stand up for him.
Here is a link to the fundraiser. Please help if you can.