GOLD BAR — When Snohomish County officials raided a home near here in January, the stench of dog urine and feces was overwhelming.
Excrement littered the home. The small building shook as dozens of dogs kept in pens barked. Officials found six tiny puppy bodies in a freezer stored along with food.
More dead dogs were found in a garbage bin. Nearly 160 dogs were rescued, many with matted coats and serious health problems.
Officials said the house was part of a multimillion-dollar puppy mill operation.
On Friday, Jason Dean Larsen and Serenna Lynn Larsen, both 38, entered guilty pleas to six counts each of first-degree animal cruelty in Snohomish County Superior Court. The couple lived in the home and were responsible for caring for the animals, prosecutors said.
They face up to a year behind bars when they’re sentenced on Jan. 25.
Prior to their pleas, the couple said they didn’t know that what they were doing was illegal and they were following the instruction of Renee Roske, the owner of Wags ‘n’ Wiggles, a Snohomish dog breeding business.
In return for raising the animals, Roske paid their rent and other living expenses, Jason Larsen has said.
As part of their plea agreement, they said they were employees when they caused substantial and considerable suffering to the dogs.
The Larsens lived like indentured servants, defense attorney Gabe Rothstein said Friday.
They were underequipped and did not profit off the arrangement, he said.
It was Roske who instructed the Larsens to keep dead puppies in the freezer, he said. The home near Gold Bar where they lived is owned by Roske’s sister.
Roske has not been charged.
Her Snohomish County kennel license was revoked after 13 years of violations, records show.
The day following the Gold Bar-area raid, Snohomish County officials obtained a court order to search Roske’s home. No dogs were taken, but officials did remove illegal drugs.
Roske said many of her dogs were moved to her parents’ kennel in Skagit County, court documents said.
Officials there raided the parents’ property and seized around 450 dogs, many in terrible condition. Roske’s parents, Marjorie and Richard Sundberg, face animal cruelty charges in Skagit County.
In September Roske attempted to have half a dozen of the dogs seized in Skagit County returned. A Skagit County judge denied her request.
She also applied in Snohomish County for a new kennel license.
The application was denied Wednesday, said Vicki Lubrin, the county’s animal control manager. Lubrin said Roske’s lengthy history of code violations and complaints from neighbors were the reasons the application was turned down.
Roske may appeal.
Lubrin said she was pleased with the Larsens’ guilty pleas.
“We’ll wait to hear what happens at the sentencing,” she said.
The dogs rescued from the Gold Bar property were either adopted out to new homes or turned over to breed-specific rescue groups.
Rose Adams of Mill Creek adopted Poncho, a red merle chihuahua.
Her dog seems as if he still is frightened by people, she said.
She too was pleased with the guilty pleas and said she will ask a judge for stiff penalties for the Larsens.
“I think they should suffer,” she said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, email@example.com.