Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19257
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull)
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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2012

County: Spokane

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Marsha Erskine

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

The wafting smell of animal hoarding was evident from a street outside a Hillyard home on Wednesday morning. SpokAnimal was on scene seizing animals on a warrant for animal cruelty and neglect. About 30 animals, cats and dogs, were found in the barely livable home at the 3200 block of East Crown.

Marylin Meyer, SpokAnimal, says the animals did not have available food or water and large piles of fecal matter was found in and around the kennel area.

"If they don't have fresh food or water and they're sleeping in their own feces, matted and skinny, they're not being cared for. And that's the situation," said Meyer. She also says this isn't the first time they've dealt with this neighbor.

"We've been getting complaints from neighbors for years. I've been dealing with this individual..." Meyer paused to count exactly how long it has been. "I started 28 years ago and I've been dealing with them since then."

At one point the homeowner had goats: "She's had them all," Meyer said. They've been responding to hoarding calls about the homeowner even at her previous residence in West Spokane.

SpokAnimal hopes to have the animals permanently removed from the home and keep the homeowner from getting more animals for as long as the law allows. Meyer says the most the prosecuting attorney can do is disallow the owner from animals for one year.

"We've given her every opportunity to get rid of the animals and clean up, but we get phone calls from residents asking: "Aren't you going to do something about those animals?"," Meyer added. "We have to do something. It's not for the residents, it's for the animals. You don't lock up eight cats in one small cage and not clean them."

The owner could face a fine per animal or surrender the animals so SpokAnimal can begin to take care them. Before they can be put up for adoption or fostered the animals will need a bath.

RELATED DOCUMENT: Animal Hoarding Search Warrant

Case Updates

How was a Hillyard woman able to hoard hundreds of animals over nearly three decades without anybody stopping her?

That's the question on many minds after Spokanimal officers again seized dozens of animals Wednesday from Marsha Erskine's home on East Crown.

That small home she lived in was a private hell for 50 animals.

"He is wanting something to drink but he couldn't drink because the trough that was filled for him with water was frozen and you can see where he'd been licking it," Marilyn Mayer with Spokanimal said.

One of the cats that was rescued has its skin peeling off because Spokanimal says it was forced to live in a kennel lined with inches of feces and urine.

The nightmare for dozens of animals ended Wednesday because someone finally said something.

"When I got there the house reeked of urine you could smell it a house away," Erin Wakefield said.

Back in October, Wakefield's 15-year-old Chihuahua disappeared. She assumed he was dead until in mid-January, when a friend spotted the dog at a Hillyard gas station; a special marking on her tail gave her away.

That led Wakefield back to Marsha Erskine's home where, she says, the animals there were begging to be freed.

"They just wanted to go; I know that sounds funny but they just wanted out and I haven't been able to get it out of my head," Wakefield said.

Erskine's husband answered the door and Wakefield told him she wasn't leaving without her dog. The man handed it over.

"She was horribly dirty, she was covered in feces, her ears were all rotted out," Wakefield said.

Wakefield is now working on pressing charges against Erskine.

"I wouldn't be surprised if half the dogs in that kennel right now were not owned at some point by someone who thinks that their dog has been dead for so long, that wouldn't surprise me in the least," she said.

Though Spokanimal has been dealing with Erskine for nearly three decades, now they can take legal action. It takes first hand knowledge of the animal cruelty and someone willing to testify to bring criminal charges. Wakefield is willing to be that key witness.

"We're preparing reports which will be presented to the prosecuting attorney and that's who will make the decision what charges will be filed and when," Gail Mackie with Spokanimal said.

"I'm moving for charges to be pressed, nobody should have that happen to their baby," Wakefield said.

Out of the 50 dogs Erskine had at her home, she released all but four to Spokanimal. A judge will have to decide if she can have those four back.

The rest of the dogs and cats have been cleaned, micro-chipped, sterilized and are ready for a loving home.
Source: Feb 8, 2012
Update posted on Feb 12, 2012 - 9:29AM 
Wednesday Spokanimal seized nearly 50 cats and dogs from a small home in Hillyard. Now the owner has asked for some of her pets back.

For the last couple days, workers at Spokanimal animal clinic have put in hours of overtime taking care of the rescued cats and dogs.

Many have found homes but none are back with their previous owner yet.

29 cats, 21 dogs, were removed from the small Hillyard home on Wednesday.

Officers tell us the pets were living in their own filth had little access to food and water.

Since then veterinarians have worked to clean them, spay and neuter them.

Out of the 50 fewer than half of them remain at the shelter. Most have been adopted into new homes.

Four of them are on hold at the owner's request. Gale Mackie with Spokanimal say wants them back after surrendering all of the others to Spokanimal.

Mackie says, "we've gotten a lot of facebook stuff about how can we even think about letting them go back to her, and we are not. That's not up to us."

It is up to the court.

Friday afternoon, Mackie says the shelter forwarded their hoarding report to Spokane police for review. Next week, she expects to hear from prosecutors whether or not the owner will be charged with animal cruelty and neglect.

If convicted, Mackie says she could never own another pet again.
Source: - Feb 10, 2011
Update posted on Feb 12, 2012 - 8:55AM 
Spokane Police assisted SpokAnimal CARE officers Wednesday in removing more than 30 dogs and cats from a Hillyard bungalow that carried such a heavy stench that workers were forced to wear hazardous material suits and respirators to operate inside.

Officers obtained a search warrant for the home of Marsha Erskine, 57, at 3622 E. Crown Ave., after a series of complaints led them to several dogs and cats outside in crates that were piled high with feces.

"All the cats are strays," said Erskine, as she watched animal control officers swarm around her home. "I took the strays to SpokAnimal but they wouldn't take them. They tried to charge me $35 a piece and I don't have the money."

Spokane County property records show the tiny home was built in 1929 with only 288 square feet of space upstairs. Most of the animals were confined to the basement, which had the same square footage but no approved access.

Marilyn Meyer, of SpokAnimal, said the only access was steps carved out of the dirt with boards laid over them.

"She hadn't given the animals fresh water and hasn't cleaned up after them," Meyer said.

Asked how many complaints have been levied against Erskine, Meyer replied: "Innumerable. We get calls every month. I have been working for SpokAnimal for 28 years. We have been dealing with this person for 28 years."

Erskine said her husband, Calvin, who turns 87 today, recently fell and remains hospitalized with a broken leg. "I've been nothing but harassed," Erskine said of SpokAnimal.

Asked about the feces and horrid conditions, she replied: "I haven't had time to do anything. I work two part-time jobs. I was doing pretty good up until the past couple months."

Reedie Dodd, 55, said she left her dachshund named Lucky, which had surgery on Monday, with Erskine while she moved out of her Spokane Valley home.

"I trusted her with the dog. I didn't know this would happen," Dodd said. "I shouldn't have brought him over here."

Erskine said Dodd actually dropped off six new puppies and four cats along with Lucky.

Animal control officers initially removed four dogs and eight cats, but they said they had 18 or so to go.

Despite the conditions, Erskine was not charged Wednesday. Animal control officers will turn their findings over to local prosecutors for potential animal cruelty charges.

"I've had animals all my life," Erskine said. "I hope to get some of them back."
Source: - Feb 8, 2012
Update posted on Feb 12, 2012 - 8:46AM 


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