Was what has turned out to be one of the worst instances of animal neglect in Oregon history a case of good intentions gone horribly wrong?
A 24-year-old Oregon woman who started an animal rescue as a means to save dogs from high-kill shelters has been arrested after more than 140 dogs in her care were discovered in a state of severe neglect.
Alicia Marie Inglish of Salem, Oregon, who started the Willamette Animal Rescue and registered the organization with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office in 2011, is behind bars following a January 13 raid on the warehouse where the group’s dogs were kept.
When police entered the warehouse late Sunday evening, they discovered 149 dogs shut up in stacked cages, many of them injured and suffering from untreated illnesses, including mange, eye infections, and ringworm. As many as five emaciated dogs were crammed into cages meant for a single dog.
“I saw one animal stuffed into a cage that was so small he was unable to lie down, sit or stand up,” said veterinarian Kris Otteman, who was on the scene during the raid.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office describes the horrible scene, saying that many of the dogs were “extremely underweight and suffering from starvation and malnutrition. Others appeared sick and some had their eyes sealed shut with bodily fluids. The cages had some sawdust on the cold cement floors, but no bedding was available to the animals. Most of the cages were filled with animal feces and urine.”
Investigators discovered that very little food or water was available to the suffering animals, and what was consumable was contaminated with waste and garbage. Only two bags of dog food were found in a warehouse of nearly 150 dogs, but many of the neglected animals survived on stale bread. Some of the rescued dogs were in such advanced starvation that caretakers will have to establish a “re-feeding program” — very slowly reintroducing small amounts of food in order to avoid overloading the dogs’ digestive systems.
The seized dogs have since been taken to three shelters, including the Oregon Humane Society in Portland, the Willamette Humane Society, and Marion County Dog Control. The dogs will remain in protective custody while officials continue to conduct their investigation.
Two other young women who served on the Willamette Animal Rescue board are also in police custody. Merissa Marie Noonan, 21, and board secretary Amanda Noelle Oakley, 19, also face multiple charges connected with the case.
Inglish was returned to jail after a Tuesday hearing in Marion County Circuit Court. While she successfully posted her original bail of $55,000 on January 18, the judge saw fit to boost that amount to $75,000.
While Inglish initially faced a whopping 120 counts of animal neglect, the district attorney’s office has since condensed each case. She is now charged with 10 counts of first-degree animal neglect, 10 counts of second-degree animal neglect, and one count of attempting to tamper with physical evidence.
“We are tasked with doing justice and holding offenders accountable for their behavior. It is not always necessary to file every possible charge to achieve that goal,” explains Marion County Deputy District Attorney Jean Kunkle, “particularly if an offender is willing to step forward and take responsibility.”
Marsha Chambers, the director of Salem area animal rescue Hopes Haven, has been acquainted with Inglish and had personally tried to serve as a mentor to the young woman. Chambers began to suspect that the dogs at Willamette Animal Rescue weren’t being cared for properly, so the animal advocate began to look more closely at Inglish’s operation.
“I’m happy now that Alicia is back in jail,” Chambers tells The Oregonian. “We’re just waiting for the outcome.”
According to SFGate.com, Chambers contacted the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and nearby Humane Society organizations to report her concerns. But it was an unnamed informant who presented the sheriff’s office with the photographs that would officially launch a full-scale investigation.
“It took a private person to bust her,” Chambers said.