Puppy video a grim sight

  • Fri May 29th, 2009 5:38pm
  • News

By Jackson Holtz, Herald Writer

GOLD BAR — Six tiny puppy bodies were in a freezer.

In at least one room, dog feces covered the floor.

Plywood kennels held dozens of cowering Chihuahuas, pugs and terriers.

Vials of what appeared to be veterinary medicine lined a refrigerator shelf.

For about 15 minutes, a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy walked through a Gold Bar-area home making a video record of the January raid that rescued nearly 160 dogs from a suspected puppy mill.

Officials suspected the dogs were part of an alleged multimillion-dollar puppy mill.

The video, released Thursday, is the first time images of the raid have been made public. Court papers previously described deplorable conditions inside the home where the stench of animal urine permeated the air and many of the animals’ coats were matted, snarled with fleas and excrement.

Among the investigative work captured on the tape is a deputy carefully unwrapping plastic grocery bags from the remains of dead puppies. They were found inside a kitchen freezer stocked with food.

The video is evidence in the case against Jason and Serenna Larsen, both 37. Each of them is charged with half a dozen counts of first-degree animal cruelty.

Prosecutors allege the Larsens lived in the house and were responsible for the dogs’ care.

Jason Larsen has said that he was instructed to place still-born puppies in the freezer in case veterinary testing was needed.

The Larsens said they were breeding the dogs for a Snohomish woman who allegedly earned millions of dollars a year, court papers said. They said they were told what they were doing wasn’t illegal.

A Snohomish County judge on Tuesday ruled the video should be released. Defense attorneys had tried to stop that from happening, citing concerns for the Larsens’ safety and their ability to get a fair trail. The couple said they have received death threats. Their trial is set to begin July 31 in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The video shows a home overrun with animals, many in pens and cages. A Dachshund ran free, as did a black cat. Most animals were confined to cages.

Kitchen cabinets appeared full of veterinary supplies.

Cobwebs seemed to drape from an unfinished attic. Witnesses told police the entire home would shake when the dogs barked.

All the animals were taken from the house and have since been placed in new homes.

The puppy mill investigation is continuing and is believed to be connected to a larger operation where around 450 dogs were seized in Skagit County, and to a Snohomish kennel business called Wags ‘n’ Wiggles.

The owner of Wags ‘n’ Wiggles, Renee Roske, has not been charged. Her parents face felony animal cruelty charges in Skagit County.

Detectives raided Roske’s home a day after serving the search warrant at the Gold Bar home. Roske met them at the door with a pooper scooper in hand, court papers said.

The video released Thursday also documents the search of Roske’s luxury home.

Images show a living room transformed into a showroom for pet supplies. Small dogs were kept in pens around the house, including one inside a bedroom closet.

A sophisticated video-surveillance monitor was set up next to a bed.

Clothing and pet supplies were in disarray throughout much of the house.

A garage appeared to be converted into a kennel. Several dogs were shown in cement pens lined with newspapers. In the garage, a refrigerator appeared to be stocked with veterinary supplies, while a freezer was full of frankfurters.

There were around 40 dogs in the home. No dogs were taken, but officials said they seized financial papers and illegal drugs.

Roske since has lost her business license and was ordered to have no more than three dogs in her home.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.