Update on the Seizure of 220 Animals from West Seattle Home

The following is an update as of 10/16/20 on the animal cruelty investigation currently being conducted by the Seattle Animal Shelter. Media inquiries can be sent to Melissa Mixon at melissa.mixon@seattle.govIf you suspect an animal is being harmed, please contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at 206-386-7387.

More than 220 animals are now in the care of the Seattle Animal Shelter following the successful execution of a search warrant by the shelter and Seattle Police Department on a property in West Seattle on Thursday, Oct. 15.

The animals, which were discovered in cages inside and outside a home on the property, are currently being treated at the shelter for severe neglect and malnourishment. Three of the animals are being transferred offsite for veterinary care reserved for exotic animals.

The animals retrieved from the property include:

  • 77 rabbits
  • 128 guinea pigs
  • 7 chickens
  • 2 mice
  • 2 chinchillas
  • 3 dogs
  • 3 guinea fowl

In addition, in other buildings on the property, a number of deceased animals were found in cages. Investigators are still working to determine the exact amount but estimate it could be in the hundreds.

“This is the worst case of animal neglect and cruelty I’ve seen in more than 20 years of doing this work, and it’s quite possibly the worst case our shelter has ever handled,” said Seattle Animal Shelter Director Ann Graves.

The resident at the properties has been arrested and is in police custody on animal cruelty charges. First degree animal cruelty is a Class C felony punishable by five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.

Also concerning is that the number of severe animal cruelty cases this year has more than doubled when compared to previous years. Each year, the animal shelter forwards misdemeanor cases to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and felony cases to King County prosecutors that are so egregious they require potential criminal charges. The average numbers of those cases over the past five years is 12. In the past 10 months alone, the shelter has sent 27 cases to either City or county prosecutors. The current case is being handled by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office because it’s a felony charge.

“The number of cases is not only alarming,” Graves said. “It’s the severe nature of the cases that also causes concern.”

In the 24 hours since the animals were discovered, the shelter has received an outpouring of support from community members, residents and organizations that want to help the animals. At this time, the best way to do that is through direct donations to the shelter’s Help the Animals Fund or via the shelter’s Amazon Wish List [UPDATE: The outpouring of support has been so tremendous that our Amazon Wishlist has been filled a couple times over within the first two days. At this point, those wishing to help may be best to consider our Help the Animals Fund: https://web7.seattle.gov/fas/asd/ ]. Shelter staff have updated the list to reflect the needs for the 220-plus animals while in the shelter’s care. Graves also expressed gratitude for the support of the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation, which is collecting donations for the animals here.

Please note that, due to the ongoing pandemic requirements, the shelter is unable to accept in-person donations.

The shelter’s primary focus at this time is evaluating, treating and caring for the animals. In the coming days or weeks, Graves said it may need the support of its foster community to help care for the animals so as not to strain capacity and resources at the shelter.

“The animals are in a very, very fragile state given the conditions they’ve been in and the stress of being moved to a new location,” Graves said. “But they are doing well in our care and our shelter team has done an incredible job in this all-hands-on-deck situation.”

As in many animal welfare cases, the discovery and seizure of these animals was in part thanks to a vigilant community member who saw something and said something. Graves said it’s a reminder to all of us that animals don’t have a voice and that’s why it’s so important for us all to remain vigilant and help speak for them when something seems wrong. If you suspect an animal is being harmed, please contact the shelter at 206-386-7387.

“The sad reality is that what was occurring on this property had likely gone on for a very long time,” Graves said. “We can’t thank the community member enough who sounded the alarms and, ultimately, helped save the lives of these 222 animals and to the Seattle Police Department for their invaluable assistance on this case.”