Issaquah dog breeder faces cruelty charges for hoarding animals
May 15, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The empty kennels outside a rundown Issaquah house and the sound of dogs barking from inside alerted animal rescue advocates to possible trouble.
Days later, in early October, King County Sheriff’s Office investigators raided the house and discovered 62 Chihuahuas and Japanese Chins confined in filthy carriers.
On May 3, King County prosecutors filed animal-cruelty charges against the homeowner, a dog breeder and a past judge for the American Kennel Club, a prestigious registry of purebred dogs. Prosecutors said Issaquah resident Margaret Ann Hamilton, 70, hoarded more than 100 dogs at homes in Issaquah and Burien.
Detective John K. Pavlovich said Hamilton and her since-deceased husband hoarded the animals at a home in the 5900 block of 189th Avenue Southeast on Cougar Mountain, about a mile south of Cougar Mountain Zoo.
Hamilton is due in King County Superior Court for arraignment May 17 on two counts of second-degree animal cruelty, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Investigators, alongside Burien and Regional Animal Services of King County animal control officers, raided the Issaquah and Burien homes after receiving a tip from Pasado’s Safe Haven, a nonprofit animal rescue organization in Seattle.
Police discovered 38 more dogs at a Burien home owned by Hamilton’s brother-in-law.
Investigators “noted and documented the overpowering stench of urine, feces, decay and dirt,” Pavlovich told the court. “It was so bad that protective face masks were necessary. Several detectives and RASKC officers reported that they were ill for several days after the service of the warrant.”
Veterinarians later euthanized 14 ill animals — 13 dogs from the Burien home and one dog from the Issaquah home. Officers later placed many dogs seized from the homes with CARES of Burien, a nonprofit animal-rescue organization.
In mid-September, a caller alerted Pasado’s Safe Haven employees about dog hoarding and dirty, malnourished animals at the Burien home, court documents state.
Pasado’s Safe Haven employees illegally entered the home through an unlocked back door Sept. 27. In the basement, they discovered 30 to 40 small dogs locked in small carriers. The employees said paper covered the basement windows and no light reached the basement.
The employees shot a short video to capture the deplorable conditions in the basement. Pasado’s Safe Haven later provided footage to law enforcement officers showing Chihuahua, Pomeranian and Japanese Chin dogs. The video showed dogs in rusty, feces- and urine-soiled cages.
“Most of the dogs had no food or water in the crate, many displayed what they described as ‘neurotic’ behavior, such as circling repeatedly in the small crates,” Pavlovich continued.
The employees traveled to the Issaquah home Sept. 30. They later told police they smelled “a strong odor of feces” and “they could hear multiple dogs barking from inside the residence.”
Pasado’s Safe Haven then alerted the sheriff’s office to possible animal cruelty at the homes.
Police and animal control officers received a warrant and descended on the Burien house at about 6:15 p.m. Oct. 6.
The law enforcement team discovered Hamilton’s 72-year-old husband and 74-year-old brother-in-law in the basement.
“They appeared to be in the process of moving some of the dogs from crates into a dog run,” court documents state.
Officers conducted triage at the scene to determine the dogs’ conditions and need for medical care.
“The majority of the dogs had either no food or water. Several had a significant amount of feces and urine in their individual crates, indicating neglect,” Pavlovich continued. “All of the dogs had significant issues with their teeth, feet and nails based on unsanitary living conditions.”
Later, a veterinarian at a Seattle clinic euthanized 13 dogs suffering from malnourishment, heart murmurs and advanced periodontal disease.
Just after 11 p.m. Oct. 6, police and animal control officers reached the Issaquah home. Officers discovered 62 dogs in filthy crates covered in accumulated dust, dirt and dog hair.
“The Hamilton home displayed physical signs of classic hoarding; debris, clothes and household items were stacked from floor to ceiling in every room in the house, and in the main bedroom, clutter was everywhere, with pathways only wide enough to move in and out.”
Pavlovich said the Hamiltons purchased or bred the animals as show dogs. (Hamilton’s husband died in late October from natural causes.)
Police said Hamilton put four Chihuahuas in a van inside the garage. She intended to show the animals at a dog show in Enumclaw in the days ahead and worried police might seize them.
Of the animals seized at the Issaquah home, a veterinarian at a Bellevue clinic later euthanized a dog suffering from congestive heart failure and periodontal disease.
“Hoarding is likely a factor in what was occurring, as the Hamiltons were clearly unable to part with dogs that they had collected over the years, even after the dogs were past a show or breeding age,” Pavlovich wrote.
Police and animal control officers managed to place the animals into the care of foster families and animal control agencies.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.