Officials in Marion County, Ore. have made a third arrest in the Willamette County Animal Rescue case after seizing more than 140 dogs from a warehouse in Brooks last week. Merissa Marie Noonan, 21, was arrested after turning herself in on Jan. 19. According to the Statesman Journal, Noonan faces the same 149 counts of animal neglect as Amanda Noelle Oakley, the second person charged. The organization’s president, Alicia Marie Inglish, was originally charged similarly, but the number of charges was reduced to 10 after arraignment on Monday.
As the investigation continues, it’s still a mystery as to why the so-called rescue wasn’t shut down before. Willamette County Animal shelter registered in Oregon as a non-profit, but required paperwork was never completed, which prompted threat of legal action by Oregon’s Department of Justice in December.
Willamette County Animal Rescue was listed as an adoptions provider with PetSmart Charities, which pays $10 to a provider when one of their animals is adopted through an event at PetSmart stores. The agency, which is a separate entity from the chain of stores, claims to have visited a foster home associated with the rescue, but not the warehouse where the large number of dogs were housed. Some dogs brought to adoption events were noted to be dirty and unkempt, which should have raised flags and prompted further investigation, but PetSmart Charities didn’t terminate their association with Willamette County Animal Rescue until after arrests were made this month.
A nearby business complained to authorities about excessive barking at the warehouse, but no one ever investigated. Another rescue organization also contacted Marion County Sheriff’s Office and both Willamette and Oregon Humane Societies after becoming suspicious about neglect; those reports also went unheeded. The situation wasn’t taken seriously until photos of the warehouse were submitted by an anonymous tipster, which prompted the raid and seizure of the animals.
Willamette Valley Animal Hospital reports that Inglish, now 24, brought dogs in to be spayed and neutered “starting a couple of years ago” and always followed up with recommended care, and bills were being paid. She stopped bringing dogs to that animal hospital in September, after a period of not paying outstanding bills. Based on the condition of the animals seized, it’s doubtful that any dogs were seen by a veterinarian since then.
No doubt Inglish loved animals; she worked at a pet store until she was fired in September for repeatedly being late, and finally just didn’t show up for work at all. Was this a case of good intentions gone bad? All three board members are barely out of their teens, so were their hearts in the right place, and lack of maturity and good judgment a factor?
Whatever the reason, over 140 dogs suffered needlessly.
Have a dog-related business or event in South/Central Ohio that you’d like to share? Email OhioDogExaminer@gmail.com to learn how to be featured.
Follow Marie Anne's dog column (it's completely anonymous) by clicking subscribe at the top of the page.