75 rescued collies need help

Lassie doesn’t want to go home.

Oak Harbor veterinarian Eric Anderson examined eight stinky, fur-matted, scabby collie dogs at the Animal Care and Laser Center in Oak Harbor Tuesday afternoon.

The dogs were part of a group of 75 purebred collies rescued from a Camano Island home over the weekend. An Island County deputy discovered the “puppy mill,” with dogs living in filthy and overcrowded conditions, after responding to a call Sunday morning.

The middle-aged couple who own the dogs agreed to voluntarily surrender the animals after a veterinarian toured the house and found the animals’ living conditions to be unhealthy, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jan Smith.

It was the largest animal rescue case ever for Island County, Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes said. Animal rescue workers had to scramble to find housing for the collies late Sunday and into Monday morning. Island County residents, members of a Seattle dog rescue group and an animal control officer from another county volunteered their time.

Eight of the dogs made it to the WAIF facility in Coupeville at about 12:30 Monday morning. On Tuesday night, 25 more of the collies came over to Whidbey for housing.

Anderson said the dogs are pretty healthy, considering. Some of them are definitely skinny, he said, “but by no means emaciated.” The collies smelled pretty bad from fur that is badly matted with urine and feces. Some of the dogs have urine burns on their paws. Some have rotten teeth.

Yet the dogs are undeniably sweet, though a little shy. They remained mild-mannered as they were poked and prodded Tuesday. Animal Control Officer Peg Diefert said one of the dogs acted as if it had never been outside before when she walked it on a leash.

Smith said the Camano Island couple had kept dogs, which range from puppies to several years old, in kennels outside, in the house and in a dark basement without ventilation. The kennels were urine and feces-filled and the odor was terrible. Some four-foot by four-foot kennels held as many as eight dogs.

This isn’t the first time the man and woman, who are both in their 50s, have gotten into trouble over their kennel operations. About a year and a half ago, an animal control officer did an “educational enforcement” and taught them how to property take care of pets. In 1998, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office cited the 58-year-old woman for operating an unlicensed commercial kennel.

Smith said the current criminal investigation is continuing and “there will likely be citations issued for animal cruelty.”

Barnes said she’s received many calls from people who want to adopt the dogs, but the county can’t adopt them out unless — or until — they are legally taken away from the couple.

At this point, Barnes said the best thing people can do is give donations for the collies’ medical, housing and other expenses.

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