Owner demands return of dogs seized in puppy-mill case
All six of them.
Romeo, Serena, Hottie, Fabio, Feebie and Chiqua, a Chihuahua who wore a pink collar with “Love” spelled out in rhinestones.
Roske is demanding Skagit County officials return her beloved pets. She says they were taken by mistake when investigators seized hundreds of malnourished, diseased and mistreated dogs from a home near Mount Vernon owned by Roske's parents.
Prosecutors say the dogs she's trying to get back — nine months after they were seized — may be the proof they need to file additional criminal charges in the puppy-mill investigation.
More than 600 dogs were rescued during January raids at two homes in Snohomish and Skagit counties. Court papers say Roske and her dog-breeding business Wags 'n' Wiggles raked in millions of dollars a year by selling the puppies.
Roske, 45, has not been charged.
Now, the six dogs — toy and teacup poodles, a Yorkshire terrier, and the Chihuahua — are at the center of a legal dispute. Roske filed a petition for the dogs' return on Sept. 10 in Skagit County District Court.
A judge is expected to review the case Monday.
Like much involving the multicounty animal cruelty case and Roske, the facts are difficult to discern and depend on whom you ask. The case is complex and convoluted — and what will happen next is unknown.
The story started near Gold Bar in January when Snohomish County officials raided a home and rescued more than 150 animals from horrid conditions. That led to raids at Roske's luxury home near Snohomish and ultimately to searches in Skagit County on a kennel belonging to Roske's parents, Marjorie and Richard Sundberg.
Skagit County prosecutors charged the Sundbergs with felony animal cruelty. Charges also were filed in Snohomish County against a Gold Bar couple who told detectives they were working for Roske.
Before the Roske petition was filed, prosecutors didn't know with certainty that any of the seized dogs from the Sundberg property belonged to anyone else, said Eric Richey, a deputy prosecutor in Whatcom County. Due to conflict issues, he's representing the state of Washington in Skagit County in the case against Roske's parents.
Now that the ownership of the six dogs can be confirmed in the court papers filed by Roske, the state is considering whether additional animal cruelty charges against the dogs' owner are warranted, Richey said.
Prosecutors are re-examining the condition the six dogs were in when they were rescued.
Roske's recent efforts to get the dogs back have frustrated authorities.
They say she's chasing her tail.
“She's too late,” said Adam Karp, a Bellingham lawyer representing one of the defendants in Roske's petition. “Ms. Roske can't expect to sit on her hands nearly nine months and then get the dogs back.”
Roske's petition is filed in the wrong court, months too late and after several legal decisions already have been made against her, according to court documents filed by Skagit County deputy prosecutor Arne Denny.
The Sundbergs and Roske were told during the Jan. 23 search warrant service how to file a petition in for her dogs' return, Denny wrote. No one filed paperwork for the animals' return in the time provided, he said.
Plus, the Sundbergs both signed courts papers giving up the dogs and a judge ordered the dogs turned over to a rescue group, the papers said.
Roske's attorney, Marianne Jones, said her client was being given the run around and tried several different ways to get her dogs back. She said the judge's instructions were wrong.
“She has attempted to get her dogs back from the moment they were taken,” Jones said.
The dogs are Roske's personal pets, Jones said.
“Renee Roske offers excuses for her failure, but none of them defeat her failure to file a timely petition. Certainly, none excuse her eight-month delay,” Denny wrote.
Denny completed the brief on behalf of the two parties named in Roske's petition: the Skagit County Sheriff's Office and Saving Pets One at a Time, or SPOT, a Burlington animal rescue group.
Should a judge agree with Roske's argument, Roske may be required to pay as much as $15,000 for the dogs' care.
She also would need to get a new kennel license in Snohomish County and it's unclear if she's eligible, Snohomish County animal control manager Vicki Lubrin said.
Roske currently is restricted to owning a maximum of three dogs in Snohomish County, Lubrin said.
Roske lost her kennel license in March after 13 years of reported violations, county records show. She will be eligible to reapply for a kennel license on Sept. 27, Lubrin said. Given Roske's history in Snohomish County and allegations about her business practices, county rules may prohibit Roske from getting a new license.
Court documents also show that authorities, including criminal investigators from the IRS, are looking into Roske's activities.
Officials will not say where the six dogs Roske wants are living today. They are in good health and are well cared for, said Richey, the prosecutor.
Roske's attorney said she hasn't been told where the dogs are.
Karp, the lawyer for SPOT, the group assigned custody of the dogs, refused to disclose where the pups are, or if they've been adopted by new families.
“Our view is that they've been forfeited and abandoned and there's really no more to the story,” he said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, email@example.com.
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