After months of hearings, continuances and a two-day trial, an Edmonds Municipal Court jury Monday found an Edmonds woman guilty of maintaining more than the legal number of dogs at her residence, but deadlocked on two animal cruelty charges against her. The same jury cleared her boyfriend of animal cruelty.
The case is the latest phase in a long history of barking and other dog nuisance complaints from neighbors of the couple — Rose Adams and George Beutler — in the Lake Ballinger area. This latest phase began on May 12, 2013, when a sensational video of dog fighting and animal abuse went viral on the Internet and triggered public outrage. The video, shot by a neighbor, shows footage of a vicious dog fight in the couple’s back yard in which three dogs pin a fourth (named Sadie) to the ground and attack her ferociously. It also shows the couple attempting to break up the dogfight and Beutler apparently kicking Sadie in the process.
The video was turned over to the authorities, and resulted in a search warrant being issued. On May 14, Edmonds police served the warrant on the couple’s home.
On that day, the authorities found 14 dogs at the residence. All were seized. Twelve were transferred to Adix Kennels, a local shelter that contracts with the City of Edmonds to board animals. Two dogs, pit bulls named Sadie and Brownie, required veterinary care and were transferred to Edmonds Veterinary Hospital. Rose Adams was taken into custody at the scene.
Adams was charged with two counts of animal cruelty based on failing to provide adequate care for injuries suffered by Sadie and Brownie. She was also charged with keeping more animals than is allowed under Edmonds law (Edmonds law limits the number of animals a person may keep in a residential zone to five).
George Beutler was charged with a single count of animal cruelty for kicking Sadie and inflicting unnecessary pain on her.
Despite objections from the defense team, jurors were shown the video in court on Friday and again on Monday before beginning their deliberations.
Witnesses providing testimony included long-time Edmonds veterinarian Larry Remick, who treated Sadie and Brownie for their injuries. Remick, a practicing vet for 42 years, has “extensive experience” treating dog fight injuries and owns a small animal practice in Edmonds. He testified that both dogs showed multiple bite wounds and lacerations in various stages of healing. He went on to state that both dogs showed bruising consistent with blunt trauma such as might be inflicted by kicking or hitting with a blunt instrument. Many of these wounds and bruises were old, suggesting a “history of fighting and abuse.”
Additional testimony was provided by Edmonds Animal Control Officers Debbie Dawson and Tabatha Shoemake, both of whom were present when the search warrant was served on the home. They provided photos and first-hand accounts of injured animals and the conditions under which they were kept. The photos showed numerous wounds and lacerations on Sadie and Brownie. They also showed the various rooms in which the animals were housed, including images of one room with puddles of urine and feces that appear to have accumulated “over several days,” according to Officer Dawson.
Taking the stand in her own defense, Rose Adams described a lifetime of caring for animals, and being an active and dedicated volunteer in dog rescue and foster. She outlined her passion for rescuing dogs from “high kill” shelters and working to place them in homes. “I have a great love for animals, not just dogs,” she said. “I love them all.” She went on to describe how she “cooks three times per week for the dogs, and bakes home-made dog treats.”
Adams further testified to her skills and experience treating animal injuries, describing in detail how she administered antibiotics and pain medications to the two injured dogs, and cleaned and dressed their wounds. She maintained that this was “adequate and appropriate treatment”, and that as a result” the animals did not require additional veterinary care.”
She testified that on the night of the dog fight her focus was on separating the dogs. She said that if she hadn’t broken up the fight, the dogs “would have killed each other. It’s what pit bulls do.”
Regarding the charge of possessing more animals than the law allows, Adams testified that only five of the dogs were registered to her. The remaining nine comprised rescues and four that had been placed under her care for the weekend while their owner was out of town.
George Buetler testified that he does not share Adams’ passion for dog rescue and foster. He went on to say that he is “scared of pit bulls,” and had received emergency room treatment in the past for bite wounds sustained from Sadie. He described the video footage as showing him trying to separate fighting dogs with his foot. He was emphatic that he was not kicking Sadie to inflict pain, but only as an attempt to keep the dogs apart.
The six-person municipal court jury heard instructions and closing statements before retiring to consider the evidence and render a verdict. They deliberated two hours before returning their verdicts. Questioned by Judge Fair, the jury unanimously maintained that they are irretrievably deadlocked on the two animal abuse charges brought against Rose Adams.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel