EVERETT — When someone is arrested for animal cruelty, the animals have to go somewhere, and someone has to pay for their care.
In 2019, Snohomish County spent more than $80,000 holding animals at the Everett Animal Shelter in connection with at least 12 criminal cases — more than 2017 and 2018 combined.
Predicting how much money will be spent on animal services is a moving target, because it’s impossible to know how many animals will be brought to the shelter, said county auditor Carolyn Weikel.
“We guesstimate, because we really don’t know,” Weikel said. “This year we had a lot more animals brought in than we thought were going to be brought in.”
When deciding the budget, the office typically makes a reserved judgment on how much it will spend on animal services, as not to needlessly stretch the county’s funds. This year, costs went over predictions. As a result — and also because of unexpected costs associated with implementing a new voter registration system — the auditor’s office had to ask the Snohomish County Council for $150,000 in emergency appropriations.
A few notable criminal cases contributed to the higher costs, including a puppy mill, unlicensed breeding kennels and other neglected animals.
One case alone, involving a puppy mill with 50 dogs, cost the county more than $41,000. Few details were released about the case, and prosecutors hadn’t filed charges yet as of Tuesday.
An unlicensed breeding kennel created expenses totaling nearly $26,000.
Last summer, Snohomish County animal services officers and sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant and found a home in disarray. They navigated their way through piles of clutter, poodles running and barking everywhere, and urine and feces that littered the floor, according to a report.
An animal services officer recorded ammonia levels, associated with animal urine, at 10 parts per million — 8 parts per million is deemed unsafe for humans.
A veterinarian determined that more than half of the dogs were underweight and many of them experienced problems with their joints. Many had matted unkempt fur, overgrown nails and dental disease.
Before the search, the owners were reported to have two dogs diagnosed with parvovirus, and at least four had previously died.
Animal services also investigated another breeding kennel with nine dogs and two cats; a residence with 12 dogs living in poor conditions; and other instances in which animals were victim to neglect and abuse.
As a result of its investigations, the county will seize the animals and keep them at the shelter, where they will be treated and documented as evidence. The owners can petition to get the animals back during court proceedings. Housing animals at the shelter costs the county $170 per day for the first 10 days, and then $20 per day afterward, though that amount can change based on contract negotiations.
Animal Services manager Debby Zins said people should take precautions when looking for a new pet. While some people may want to do good, buying from a puppy mill or an unlicensed kennel can do more harm than good.
“Don’t be a source for puppy mills,” Zins said.