Alicia Marie Inglish, 24, formed Willamette Animal Rescue in Oregon a couple of years ago to save dogs from kill shelters. Last week, she was charged with 120 counts of animal neglect after authorities raided the rescue and seized the dogs — more than 140, according to the AP.
Two other people have been arrested as well, Merissa Noonan, 21, and Amanda Noelle Oakley, 19, who remain in jail with bail for each set at $372,500. Police are still gathering evidence and tracking down witnesses.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the dogs were “extremely underweight and suffering from starvation and malnutrition. Others appeared sick and some had their eyes sealed shut with body 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.”
Conditions at the rescue — really, just a warehouse — were described as “deplorable,” with “little food, water fouled by garbage, and cages designed for one dog containing up to four.”
“As many as five dogs were kept in kennels designed for one,” reports the Oregonian. “The stench was overwhelming. Waste ran down from one crate perched atop many others, to pool on the concrete floor.”
“I found no food available to them, and the water in their cages was filled with stench,” Kris Otteman, veterinarian for the Oregon Humane Society, told the Oregonian. “I saw one animal stuffed into a cage that was so small he was unable to lie down, sit or stand up. He had no food or water in the cage, and I’m not sure how long he’d been left in that condition.”
Police photographs show emaciated dogs with open sores on their snouts in addition to bald patches.
“Those dogs were shut down. They don’t show interest in food,” said Sharon Harmon, executive director of the Oregon Humane Society. “This is so far and away from the perception of warmth and caring [that] people expect in an animal shelter. This is just a tragic case of neglect.”
The dogs are being treated for ringworm, mange, malnutrition, internal parasite infestations, eye infections, and untreated bite wounds. One had an untreated leg fracture, according to the AP.
How do people in their 20s wind up neglecting more than 100 dogs they set out to save? The group members were clearly in over their heads, obsessed with saving dogs but unable to properly care for them. Unbelievably, just two bags of dog food were found by police at the rescue — which held more than 150 dogs. The dogs’ primary food was stale bread, according to police. Some dogs were kept in small cages, stacked on top of one another; others were running loose. When police arrested Inglish, she had just pulled up to the warehouse. She had another four dogs in her car.
Humane Society spokesman David Lytle said that he doesn’t know what caused the abuse, but he compared it to similar cases where people take on too much too soon.
“They start out with good intentions, and people just get overwhelmed,” he said.