SCRAPS Investigate Spokane Valley Pet Store For Possible Animal - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

SCRAPS Investigate Spokane Valley Pet Store For Possible Animal Cruelty

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) officials told KHQ they launched a criminal investigation into the owners of the Evergreen Family Pet store after animals were left in allegedly deplorable conditions.

Evergreen Pet closed to the public months ago after the owners struggled to pay rent - according to the store's landlord Joe Mayo - but the animals remained inside. In a statement, the owners said they continued to care for the animals but a recent check of the conditions told a different story.

While the store's landlord would not speak on camera, Mayo told KHQ that he didn't know the animals were in danger and that he and the owners of Evergreen Pet had only agreed to close up shop Friday. This weekend, Mayo took it upon himself to open the doors to the public, find homes for the animals, and sell off the remainder of the pet store goods. 

When the doors opened, word spread quickly about the animals conditions. Shocked, many good Samaritans began cleaning up the store, feeding for the animals, and buying goods in what looked like a free-for-all. Mayo said all 500 animals had been adopted by the end of the weekend.

Several community members told KHQ that hundreds of animals, from turtles to chinchillas to pet mice, were left starving and living in their own feces inside the Spokane Valley pet store. Several rats died. Plus, Mayo said, one cat and one Pomeranian were in such bad shape they were taken to an animal hospital across the street. Their medical conditions were unknown Monday as the hospital was not allowed to release that information.

Garbage was strewn across the floor, some cages were filled with feces, some animals were underweight and dehydrated.

Grace Bolen was one of the customers who rushed to the store after she heard about the conditions from her mother. She said, "I'm already getting the smell of stench in my face and so I go over to where the birds are and its overwhelming. It's grotesquely disgusting."

Horrified by what she saw, Bolen said she felt compelled to act. She began giving animals food and water, cleaning their cages, and removing the dead rats from the ones that were still alive. Pictures she snapped show rats feeding on dead rat carcasses.

"I said, I'm getting these rats out of here," Bolen continued. "They're eating each other, there's babies in here."

Now dozens of people are accusing the owners of neglect.

"I'm wondering: where are the people who are supposed to be here to take care of this place?" Bolen said. "If we take the animals out of their natural habitat, it's our responsibility to take good care of them and that's just the bottom line."

While others are also pointing the finger at SCRAPS, claiming they've had complaints about the store but months but didn't step in. To that end, Hill said "We've responded to complaints. When we went in October, there were no violations of law."

In fact, Hill said SCRAPS toured Evergreen Pet many times in the past, over many years, and said they never found cause for criminal action. But that could soon change if their newest investigation turns up evidence of neglect.

SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill said the owners could face multiple charges of animal cruelty and neglect. Hill said they began investigating after they received a call last week about the animals' conditions inside the pet store but declined to elaborate since the investigation is still ongoing.

The owners of Evergreen Pet did reach out to KHQ this weekend via an email statement that said the animals had been managed on a regular basis.

STATEMENT FROM EVERGREEN PET OWNERS

"The landlord had advised us that he was trying to work with other local pet stores to help find homes for all the animals. At the end of last week the landlord changed the locks and we were no longer able to re-enter the premise to take care of the animals. Up until this time the animals were maintained on a daily basis."

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