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Valley pet boarding owners speak out after having animals seized

Posted at 8:37 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 22:37:25-05

The Arizona Humane society calls it one of the most disturbing investigations they have taken part in.

Seeing dozens of ill dogs and cats in need of immediate medical attention has taken its toll on field investigators who took part in the case.

"The Arizona Humane society sent out a fairly large team of animal cruelty investigators and emergency animal field technicians, myself included. I was the lead on the case," said Ruthie Jesus, a field investigator with the humane society.

Jesus says she is still disturbed by what they encountered in the Planet Petopia facility.

"We had dogs that were severely underweight, emaciated. We had two animals that couldn't walk and had to be carried from the facility. We had animals with open bloody wounds, cuts, scrapes, open lesions, severe tick infestation, hair loss," she described.

The Arizona Humane Society seized 52 dogs and cats from the facility, three of them just this week during a follow-up visit. Bretta Nelson, a spokesperson with the Arizona humane society, said four of those dogs have since died.

"It weighs so heavily on all of us," said Nelson. "It doesn't matter how long you've been doing this for, there are times when you get in the car, and you cry all the way home," she added.

ABC15 stopped by Planet Petopia to talk to the business owners. They allowed us into the facility and offered to give us a tour, saying they too were devastated, and all they had wanted to do was to help save the dogs.

Glen Whitley, who owns the business, said dozens of animals boarded in the facility came from local animal rescues who were unable to find fosters, or keep the animals they took in at home. They offered low-cost boarding to the animal rescues. We asked Whitley how things got so out of hand.

Whitley said many of the animals came into their care emaciated and covered with ticks. Some of them were already ill.

"If anybody knows anything about Valley fever and tick fever, they lose muscle mass, they lose weight," said Barb Whitley, his wife who co-owned the facility.

ABC15 asked the couple why they would take in dogs that were in bad shape, and sick.

"Because she has a heart, we couldn't turn them away they have nowhere else to go," said Glen Whitley.

"There is not one single rescue out there that can say they've never had tick issues, that would be a total lie," added Barb Whitley.

While walking around the facility, ABC15 observed dozens of dogs boarded up in kennels with cement floors that appeared to be clean. The animals appeared to have water. Whitley said they fed the animals every single day, and spent $3,000 on food every month.

"I want people to know we tried. You know, we tried to save those dogs and tried to have them here as a temporary home. We tried to help them, but a lot of them were already like that you know," said Glen Whitley.

The couple said many of the rescues did not pay their boarding bills on time, but they still let them house the animals there anyway.

"We can't put them out on the street. But we do want you to know, we have reached out to several agencies for help," said Barb Whitley.

The humane society plans to conduct follow-up visits at the facility to make sure the remaining animals there are being taken care of. Police say any action they may or may not take, depends on the necropsy results that come back from the dogs who died in the last week.

Dusty Lee, an animal rescuer in the Valley, called this a sad situation all around saying several parties were at fault, in this case, to make all of this get out of hand.

"Don't take animals in if you can't rescue properly. Don't board animals if you can't board properly", said Lee.