YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash., September 12, 2023—Another dead dog was found in Yakima County on August 20 believed to be a part of a string of animal abuse killings in the area.
According to Sultan-based animal shelter Pasado’s Safe Haven, a father and daughter found the 4-year-old female brown mastiff, with two gunshot wounds, in the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. The family sought help, but the dog succumbed to her injuries on the way to a veterinary clinic.
Since August of 2023, a total of six deceased dogs have been found by law enforcement working with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, all of which exhibited signs consistent with abuse and neglect. Pasado’s brought each of these dogs in for necropsies to determine the type and level of abuse these animals suffered in hopes of finding new leads.
PETA, Pasado’s Safe Haven, and its partners are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in those killings.
“Someone not only shot this dog twice but also left her to suffer and die,” says PETA Senior Vice President Colleen O’Brien. “Given the string of dog killings in Yakima County, PETA urges everyone to consider all dogs in the area at risk and to take precautions, and we urge anyone with information about any of these killings to come forward immediately before anyone else gets hurt.”
Pasado’s Safe Haven investigates animal cruelty crimes and provides rehabilitation and sanctuary to those who have suffered from abuse or neglect. The organization advocates for better laws to protect animals and educate the public about how we can end animal suffering together.
The organization is named after a donkey, “Pasado”, that was killed in Bellevue in 1992, by three boys. At that time no felony charge existed for animal cruelty in Washington but Pasado’s Safe Haven, in one of its first major achievements, helped pass a law that would make First Degree animal cruelty a felony offense. That law has since become known as the “Pasado Law.”
“Beyond our recovery efforts associated with these killings, we are seeing a disturbing rise in the number of dog abuse, abandonment, and neglect cases in Yakima County overall,” said Cynthia Wang, Executive Director of Pasado’s Safe Haven. “We are doing what we can to respond quickly and save the animals, but our sanctuary is at capacity. We’re stretching ourselves to make space for the increase in dogs needing homes.”
A private investigator for Pasado’s working on the dog abuse cases, who asked to remain anonymous because she often works undercover, told the Lynnwood Times that Yakima County has had a history of dog killings, and animal neglect, for years. She suspects it is because local law enforcement have not taken animal abuse cases seriously in the past. Research proves animal violence can be linked to human violence and even terrorism. With the addition of a new Animal Control Officer at the Department things have started to change for the better.
“Having seen similar situations in Yakima for so long I’m hoping this case will shine awareness to the whole problem there,” said the investigator. “It’s very widespread and this kind of thing is happening a lot in Yakima County and has for a long time…I think what it is about Yakima is, in my opinion, people know they can get away with it any no one seems to care.”
The investigator added there is a lot of dog fighting that takes place in Yakima, but some of the dogs found did not indicate signs of blood sport. While some might have been used in dog fighting as “bait” — to rile up a blood sport dog for battle then discarded after use — other causes of death ranged from being bound and dragged by a car to being tortured and shot in the head.
The Washington State Gambling Commission has been great in working with suspected blood sport rings in the past, but investigations typically take years, the investigator said.
The deceased dogs found are mainly larger breeds such as Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers, none of which are believed to have died from natural causes — exhibiting signs of gruesome abuse and neglect. They also do not appear to be street dogs, these are dogs that were “owned, cared for, then brutally killed.”
“Really, really, horrible, intentional, premeditated [killings]; someone did this knowing what they were doing it’s not something that just happened,” said the investigator. “I hope that that [this investigation] leads to a reduction, if not a stop, to the horror that has happened over the last number of years there,”
So far Pasado’s has received some great tips but no substantial leads. The investigator did inform the Lynnwood Times she does not suspect the killings were by a single person. The dog killings are spread throughout Yakima Valley.
To aid the Yakima Sheriff’s Office with this ongoing effort, Pasado’s has offered to do everything from holding the deceased to performing necropsies, to building a case with attorneys and prosecutor’s; the problem, however, is many of the dogs found are not recovered in a timely fashion, hindering Pasado’s ability to determine cause of death.
Cindy Kazler, Animal Control Officer with the Yakima Sheriff’s Office, informed the Lynnwood Times that there are no suspects at the moment, but the Department takes animal abuse cases very seriously. They are asking the public not to put themselves in danger or trespass, but any tips would be extremely helpful.
At the Department each case is handled on a case-by-case basis, Kazler continued. All abuse/neglect cases are handled as quickly as possible, many due to the severity of the circumstances. Others take a little longer based on the circumstances surrounding the type of abuse or neglect found during investigations. Some neglect cases are due to lack of finances, lack of education or other extenuating circumstances (death of the owner, illness of owner). Animal abuse cases are difficult, she said, because the SO must establish probable cause for the abuse.
“We try to establish a rapport with the owner and discuss the circumstances that led to the neglect/abuse. We try to offer education, medical resources and assistance with spay/neuter, food, or shelter options. We will also offer owners to surrender their animals if they are not able to supply adequate care for their animals,” said Kazler.
Prosecution in animal abuse cases are difficult, but not impossible. There are many factors that come into play and all investigation needs to be complete and detailed. The information the Sheriff’s Office obtains, documented investigational notes, video, photographs, expert witness statements etc., all play a key role in prosecuting the offender.
The Sheriffs Office has had an Animal Control Officer for several years. Yakima County is one of the largest in the State and it covers a vast area. Having only one Officer made it difficult to manage the number of calls the Department receives in a day.
“We have always done our due-diligence when it came to anima abuse cases, but adding a second Animal Control Officer has allowed us to not only handle the high number of animal and livestock incidents in our County, it has allowed us to focus on the neglect and abuse cases that plaque our community,” said Kazler. “I do not feel that our County is alone in its fight against animal neglect and abuse. Over population, due to lack of spay and neutering, has put a huge strain on our communities and the rescues are drowning in stray and abandoned animals.”
Since Kazler was was hired a year ago, she has investigated three animal cruelty cases that are pending court hearings. She has investigated 10-15 horse cases for neglect. Four of those cases ended with owner surrender. One was seized during a search warrant. Three were humanely euthanized. The others came into compliance or are still working toward compliance. Kazler monitors these cases and does a follow up every 30 days. Many of her animal neglect cases have either surrendered or have come into compliance but still follows up with these cases to ensure continuing compliance.
Tips can be submitted via the tip line at 1-800-222-TIPS or on the Yakima County Crime Stoppers’ website at www.crimestoppersyakco.org.Pasado’s needs the public’s help to find who is responsible for this pattern of gruesome deaths. Anyone with specific details relevant to the current incidents should call 1-800-222-TIPS and reference Case #23C03867 or submit a tip on Yakima County Crime Stopper’s website: http://www.crimestoppersyakco.org.
In addition, those with information can download the P3 Tips app (for Apple or Android devices) and submit a tip digitally. Pasado’s encourages the public to be vigilant when providing information about these incidents and share specific details relevant to the current case. All reports will remain anonymous.
To donate to Pasado’s and help investigators continue to pursue these terrible cases of abuse and protect animals, visit pasadosafehaven.org/yakimareward.
Follow Pasado’s on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for daily updates, or visit the over 200 animals at its Pacific Northwest sanctuary in Sultan. Learn more at https://www.pasadosafehaven.org/