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
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
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
"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
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
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