Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17262
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Carlette Kruse
Defense(s): Nathan Garcia
Judge(s): Cynthia Beaman

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011

County: Curry

Disposition: Convicted

» Keith Roy Cook
» Dona May Willey

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

All but two of the 32 animals rescued from "horrific" living conditions at a Harbor home this week were on the mend Friday, and one of two suspects in the case was facing multiple charges of animal neglect and resisting arrest.

Two dogs had to be euthanized, authorities said.

"Deputies commented that this was some of the worst living conditions they had ever seen," said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop.
With a search warrant in hand, and animal control officers and animal rescue volunteers standing by, sheriff's deputies descended on the rundown house at 98227 East Benham Lane at noon Wednesday.

Once inside the house, authorities encountered severe unsanitary conditions and found nine dogs, six puppies, 10 cats and six kittens in various stages of neglect.

"The conditions are horrific," Curry County Sheriff's Lt. John Ward said at the scene. "The floor is soaked with urine and dog poop. Some of the animals are being taken to the shelter, a few are being taken to the vet."

Deputies were outside the house talking to resident Keith Cook, 49, when he became combative. He yelled obscenities and threatened those around him as he was forced to the ground, handcuffed and transported to the Curry County Jail.

Cook appeared in court Friday on a charge of resisting arrest and two charges of animal abuse in the second degree. His request for a conditional release was denied. His next court appearance is Jan. 20.

Dona Willey, 59, who lived with Cook at the residence, cooperated with authorities during Wednesday's raid and remained on scene to help volunteers retrieve the animals. Charges had not been filed against Willey as of Friday, but a sheriff's report has been filed with the district attorney's office.

"At this point we think the woman was being forced to live like this by Mr. Cook," Ward said.

Authorities served the search warrant based on information that the couple were harboring a large number of dogs and cats under neglectful conditions.

A week earlier, Curry County Animal Control Officer Catherine Powers had contacted the residents and, having seen the conditions, convinced Willey to surrender seven dogs.

The animals were taken to a local veterinarian, and two were euthanized. The veterinarian's report described the condition of all the dogs as "a medical nightmare," Powers said.

When Willey refused to surrender the remaining animals on Tuesday, and demanded the return of the first seven dogs, Powers and sheriff's deputies returned to the home at noon Wednesday with the search warrant. A dozen volunteers from the Curry County Animal Shelter and the South Coast Humane Society waited 100 feet away until Cook was taken into custody.

The strong smell of urine and feces inside the home forced authorities and volunteers to wear masks as they located and carried out animals to waiting vehicles. The dogs were taken to the county animal shelter in Gold Beach and the cats to the South Coast Humane Society (SCHS) shelter in Brookings. Humane traps were set inside the residence to catch three remaining cats, and one was set outside to catch a dog.

A Curry County code enforcement deputy was called in to document evidence of numerous health and safety code violations inside and outside the house, Bishop said.

The residents, he said, had been living in the garage because the house had no functioning sewer service and there were "vast quantities of animal waste" through the residence. Willey told authorities she and Cook were using buckets to haul human waste outside to be dumped on the property.

"This is a situation where the woman really cares about the animals, but she doesn't have the means to take care of them," Ward said.

Powers added, "It's a classic hoarding case."

Others felt similarly about Willey. "(Willey) seems like a kind and carrying person. I think what happened saved her life," said Audrey Morris, director of the South Coast Humane Society.

"It looked like the whole place had filled up with urine and poop, so they moved into the garage, and that was filling up with urine and poop, too," Audrey said.

At one point during Wednesday's activity, the woman told a deputy on scene that she had been caring for the animals for 13 years and "this is what has become of it."

A representative of the Oregon Department of Human Service's senior and people with disabilities office was on hand to help Willey.

Several neighbors watching the activity Wednesday said they have been concerned about the home and the animals for at least 10 years.

"The dogs would sometimes escape the yard and threaten other pets and people; the cats would go around pooping everywhere," said neighbor Vicki Cooley. "We would complain to authorities, but nothing was ever done."

She added, "It's heartbreaking what's happened to the animals, but I'm glad something was finally done."

Cooley and other neighbors said questionable activities had been happening at home for many years, with different people living in various dwellings on the property and what appeared to be homeless people living in tents in the yard.

Several people on scene said the house was so unclean it should be burned down.

Bishop commended the efforts of everyone involved. "I am proud of the work done by our animal shelter staff and grateful for the help and work done by the South Coast Humane Society," he said.

"Both shelters are putting forth extraordinary efforts to care for these neglected animals, getting veterinary care for them and nursing them back to health," he said.

Bishop said the shelters will have to keep the dogs until any court cases involving the owners are resolved.

"It's going to get expensive, and they will need any help they can get," he said.

Officials at both shelters said they expect to face major expenses as they rehabilitate the animals. The highest cost will be for spaying and neutering services, as none of the dogs and cats had been fixed. Other costs include special food and veterinarian care.

"Any donations would be great," said Morris. "The cats have received no care, just food, and it was dog food, which does not have the nutrition they need."

The kittens, she said, had been kept in a small cage and likely were never allowed out.

"They seem to be friendly, but they don't know how to play because they just sat in the cage and didn't move," Morris said.

The cats and kittens have all been given shots, washed and treated for mites, fleas and malnutrition.

The same was done for the dogs taken to the county animal shelter.

"The dogs are doing really great," Curry County Animal Control worker Angela McSwain said Friday. "We are going to need volunteers to help socialize them. They are still freaked out, but they are calming down a little."

If you are interested in providing a home for the animals or helping out financially call 541-247-2514.

Case Updates

A second person has been charged with animal neglect in connection with the Jan. 12 rescue of 32 animals from "horrific" conditions at a rundown house on East Benham Lane in Harbor.

Dona May Willey, 69, who has been staying in Gold Beach since the rescue, was arraigned Monday on two misdemeanor charges of animal neglect and a violation of discharging untreated waste-water. Her next appearance in Curry County Circuit Court is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Source: - Jan 26, 2011
Update posted on Feb 5, 2011 - 6:31PM 
A man who struggled with officers as they rescued dozens of cats and dogs living in "horrific" conditions at his Harbor residence was sentenced Thursday.

Keith Roy Cook, 49, received five days in jail for resisting arrest and 160 hours of community service for animal abuse.

In a plea agreement, Cook pleaded guilty to one count of resisting arrest, and one count each of first-degree animal neglect and second-degree animal neglect. At the request of the district attorney, all other counts against Cook were dismissed by the judge.

"He comes from a rough background," defense attorney Nathan Garcia told the court. "He's not a cruel man, not a violent man. The public has been reading some bad things about him. People have been threatening him."

Garcia said Cook was trying to do the best he could for the dogs and cats.

"There were 15 animals when he first moved in with (Dona May) Willey. He was trying not to do any harm to the animals," Garcia said.

He said Cook lost his job and had no money to buy food for the animals.

Deputy District Attorney Carlette Kruse said when officers arrived with a search warrant to take the animals, Cook became violent.

"It took four officers to take him down," she said.

"(Animal control officer) Catherine Powers did go to the property and offer to take the animals off his hands. He refused," Kruse said.

"He told officers 'You're not going to take my animals,' " Kruse said.

She said cats were in cages with no water and puppies had no water.

"Some of them were not able to walk," Kruse said. "Some were in such bad condition, two had to be put down."

When Cook was arrested, he originally was charged with resisting arrest and two counts of animal neglect. On Wednesday, the District Attorney's office amended the charges with one count of resisting arrest, four counts of first-degree animal neglect and two charges of second-degree animal neglect. Most of these counts were among those dismissed by the judge.

Each of the first-degree neglect charges named a specific dog, and stated that Cook was criminally negligent in failing to provide minimum care, which resulted in serious physical injury to the dogs.

According to one of the second-degree negligence counts, Cook failed to provide minimum care for 17 dogs, all under his control. According to the other, he failed to provide minimum care for 16 cats.

Powers told the court one dog had plastic and rocks in its stomach when the animals were rescued.

"If he had not had surgery, he would have died in two days," she said.

Willey, 69, who was originally charged with two counts of animal neglect, also had her charges amended Wednesday and faces the same charges as Cook, except for resisting arrest. Her next court date is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Officers encountered severe unsanitary conditions and found the cats, dogs, kittens and puppies in various stages of neglect when they entered the home in Harbor.

"The conditions are horrific," Curry County Sheriff's Lt. John Ward said at the scene. "The floor is soaked with urine and dog poop."

Curry County Sheriff John Bishop said, "Deputies commented that this was some of the worst living conditions they had ever seen."

A code enforcement deputy was called in to document evidence of numerous health and safety code violations inside and outside the house, Bishop said.

The residents had been living in the garage because the house had no functioning sewer service and there were "vast quantities of animal waste" throughout the residence, he said.

Willey told authorities she and Cook were using buckets to haul human waste outside to be dumped on the property.

Judge Cynthia Beaman, in sentencing Cook, said she felt he should be held accountable for the animals' conditions.

But she said she was concerned that "people are so up in arms about them, and not about children" being abused.

"That causes people to be messed up," Beaman said.

In addition to the jail and community service she ordered, Beaman placed Cook on 24 months' probation on each of the three counts for which he was convicted, and ordered him to pay $795 for resisting arrest and $235 for each of the two animal neglect convictions.

She also ordered Cook to report to the Curry County Department of Human Services within 60 days for mental health evaluation and treatment and drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment.

Cook was ordered to have no contact with the Curry County Animal Shelter, where the dogs seized have been kept, nor the South Coast Humane Society, which has kept the cats.

He is also not to possess or care for any animal, and he's to not have contact with the Benham Lane house, which officials said is owned by Willey and her brother, until it meets state and county sanitation requirements.

Powers said Thursday all the puppies had been adopted, as well as two of the dogs. "Two more are being adopted this afternoon," she added.
Source: - Feb 05, 2011
Update posted on Feb 5, 2011 - 5:56PM 


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