KENNEWICK -- More than 200 white dogs with matted hair living in "deplorable conditions" remain at an east Kennewick home after their owner was charged with animal cruelty because Benton County doesn't have the resources to rescue them...
Ella Stewart, 66, has pleaded innocent to one charge of second-degree animal cruelty in Benton County District Court. She was released from jail without bail and is due back in court in June...
Stewart sells American Eskimos from the house through a company called Sun Valley Kennel, according to information found online and a sign posted on her door...
The conditions the dogs are living in are deplorable...Some are living in 2-by-2-foot cages and apple crates...
Others were found inside shopping carts with lumber and scrap metal placed on top, truck beds and air conditioning frames.
Some dogs were found sleeping on concrete, wooden floors with holes in them and some just on dirt, Lusignan said. The water bowls in most cages were green and covered in algae, he said.
"The dogs had matted hair and were living in pens containing their own feces and urine," he added.
The sheriff's office didn't seize the dogs because it doesn't have anywhere to take them or the resources to care for them, officials said.
"Benton County doesn't have a facility big enough, or the manpower designated to care for animals, in order to be able to provide these animals a safe harbor," Lusignan said. "Unfortunately, we have to leave them where they are."
County officials have investigated Stewart and the condition of the dogs and the property before.
Sheriff's deputies and the health department were looking into her operation in fall 2007.
At that time, she said she was trying to reduce the kennel's population on the two-acre property.
She said she was trying to find a good way to get rid of dogs that aren't breeding stock, but she didn't want to unload the animals on the Humane Society or have them killed.
She told the Herald then that the kennel was started in 1959, and she took it over in 1967.
Sun Valley Kennel was in place long before permits were required by the county, so it's been grandfathered in and doesn't need a special permit to operate, said planning officials.
Stewart said she's been working over several decades to develop the world's smallest Eskimo dog.
She said the kennel maintains bloodlines for the small dogs, which have to weigh less than 11 pounds to be considered a Sun Valley Eskimo.
"I'm taking care of the animals the best that I can," she said..." More