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Thursday, Sep 23, 1999County: Island
Disposition: Not Charged
Person of Interest: female
A Camano Island woman recently discovered with more than 40 cats and dogs living in squalor had a penchant for animal collecting long known to local animal care workers.
In the past decade, the 63-year-old woman volunteered at an animal shelter, sought to get some of her dogs adopted because she couldn't care for them, and received help cleaning her yard from animal shelter volunteers, local residents say.
While the woman may have seemed eccentric and too willing to collect animals, people at the animal shelter say they never suspected any serious problems.
"The dogs were well-fed and pretty well-behaved," said Pam Kovach, who managed the island's animal shelter until 1998.
She helped clean the woman's yard once in the mid-1990s.
"There was a major cleanup problem," she said of the yard in the Thunder Ridge development on the eastern side of the island. "We never went inside the house."
Island County sheriff's and animal-control officials who went into the house say they discovered so much trash and excrement it was virtually uninhabitable. They found 23 cats and 18 dogs, many so sick, malnourished or wild they had to be put to death.
The sheriff's office is investigating whether the woman should be charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor.
Jean Schuver, a past president of the animal help group, said the woman occasionally volunteered to help maintain the shelter. The woman has promised not to volunteer there any more, police reports say.
The Island County Health Department received five complaints since 1992 about the woman's house, mostly relating to trash and animal feces, said Keith Higman, the district's environmental health director.
Department officials said in 1994 a health officer referred the case to animal control. The officer reported finding 17 dogs and four-foot high piles of feces at the house.
Sandy Hageleen, president of the animal help organization, which handled animal control then, said she could not find records of any response to that house.
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