Seized Sequim animals find sanctuary at Center Valley Animal Rescue

By Hannah Ray Lambert of the Leader
Posted 7/7/15

Center Valley Animal Rescue in Jefferson County is caring for the animals seized from a Clallam County resident’s property in late June.

A no-kill animal shelter and adoption center, Center …

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Seized Sequim animals find sanctuary at Center Valley Animal Rescue

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Center Valley Animal Rescue in Jefferson County is caring for the animals seized from a Clallam County resident’s property in late June.

A no-kill animal shelter and adoption center, Center Valley Animal Rescue (CVAR) is one of the few that takes in farm animals, domestic animals and wild animals that need to be rehabilitated. Sara Penhallegon, CVAR’s director, estimates the shelter is currently home to about 250 animals.

On June 24, Clallam County Animal Control, Clallam County Sheriff's Office, CVAR and a veterinarian seized eight animals from 61-year-old John Dashti's property on Serenity Lane in Sequim.

“I found out [about the case] about a week before we helped seize the animals,” Penhallegon said. Someone had reported that the donkeys' hooves were "a mess" and emailed pictures of them to her.

A few days later, she received an email about a Craigslist post in the "rants & raves" category with pictures of the donkeys' hooves and the animals' enclosure. The anonymous posting also included pictures of animal carcasses.

Penhallegon said she called Animal Control right away. They had been working on the case since earlier in the month.

Penhallegon asked how CVAR could help. "They were thrilled," she said. "They said, 'OK. You can take the animals when we seize them.'"

In the first seizure, authorities had a warrant for two donkeys as well as two sheep with overgrown wool, Penhallegon said. The warrant was amended to include four goats, because they were in a pen with the skeletons of two pigs, Penhallegon said.

Authorities left other animals at the scene because they appeared healthy and had access to food and water.

Animals are considered property in most states, she said. "If they have food, water and shelter, there's not a lot that can be done, and it's sad."

When one of Dashti's three remaining pigs died, authorities were able to seize the rest of the animals, which included the two pigs, a number of quail, 12 rabbits, 14 hens and one rooster, Penhallegon said. Several chickens remain on the Sequim property because they could not be captured.

Penhallegon described the scene during the second seizure as a "media zoo," with reporters and onlookers everywhere and a helicopter flying over the property.

The animals are being rehabilitated at CVAR, where Penhallegon said they've undergone blood work and fecal exams. The sheep have been sheared; Penhallegon said they were "emaciated" underneath all the wool and that she kept checking on them because she feared "they wouldn't make it through the night."

The animals are now property of Clallam County and remain in CVAR's care until the the issue is settled in court.

According to Animal Control Deputy Tracey Kellas, Dashti faces four counts of animal cruelty in the second degree. Kellas may recommend additional charges once she receives necropsy information on the pig.

"Obviously, we don't want him to get his animals back," Penhallegon said.

REPORTING NEGLECT

"People think there's nothing they can do [to help]," Penhallegon said. "People need to speak up, just like with child abuse. Call it in. [Authorities] need enough proof to get a warrant and go in there."

She said to call Animal Control and law enforcement rather than just contacting CVAR, because she can't pass along the information without it being "hearsay." She also said to not assume someone else has already reported the situation.

Penhallegon said that before the case was initiated in June, there had been several stray animal complaints over the course of eight years, but only four complaints that mentioned the condition of the animals.

Without trespassing, take pictures with time and date stamps and send them to law enforcement and Animal Control, she advises those who are reporting possible animal abuse. "Document, document, document."

She also said bystanders should resist the urge to give animals food or water.

"There's actually a rescue in Sequim that claims they've been feeding these animals for two years, but they never reported it," Penhallegon said. "Because they have food and water, it makes it much harder to seize the animals."

Penhallegon said she hopes people contact their legislators to share opinions and ask for stricter laws on animal mistreatment.

CVAR is involved with about one seizure a year. Penhallegon said the influx of animals has not been "too much of a strain," but the shelter always needs more volunteers. She also said she hopes another animal rescue will step up to the plate and take the two pigs, since CVAR does not have the ideal setup for pigs.

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