A former puppy mill owner must serve 10 days in jail and can never own another animal, a Whatcom County District Court commissioner ruled Wednesday, Nov. 7.
For months animal control officers had kept their eyes on Kenneth Martin Cassell's home at 7115 W. 40th Drive, southeast of Birch Bay. They seized 48 miniature Australian shepherds from his barn - full of cages, sawdust, welding machinery and a giant mound of empty bags of kibble - after getting a warrant April.
The dogs were thirsty, undernourished, kept in small, filthy cages and let outside only to breed, according to the Whatcom Humane Society. Cassell denied each allegation in an interview with The Bellingham Herald just after the dogs were taken.
Some of the mini Australian shepherds, locked in their cages, had no access to water, according to the Humane Society. Cassell agreed they didn't have access to water every second of the day but believed they had sufficient water, well within the law.
A jury found enough evidence to convict him of three counts of animal cruelty in the second degree - for three neglected dogs - and one count of violating the Washington state dog breeding law. The jury found him not guilty of 11 counts of abusing specific dogs.
At Cassell's sentencing, Public Defender Amy Jones said Cassell loved his animals, keeping one aging 14-year-old Australian shepherd named "Grandma" and caring for a neutered dog beyond his prime. Arguing against a jail sentence, she said banning him from having dogs is punishment enough because it would leave Cassell without his livelihood.
"This is all he's known and done for the past 20 years," Jones said. "It's not even a matter of him starting over. He's wiped out and can't start all over."
Cassell had a past conviction for a single count of neglecting animals less than a decade ago. His history convinced the commissioner, Tony Parise, to impose a strict ban on owning animals from now on.
"You're including cows?" Cassell asked.
"All animals," Parise answered.
He must surrender a Rottweiler he said he rescued from being put down a few months ago, when he was still allowed to own dogs.
If he violates his probation, he faces a full year in jail. He also must pay fines totaling a few thousand dollars and can't be on any property owned by the Whatcom Humane Society.
Cassell, flummoxed, addressed the court.
"I don't know what to say, your honor," he said, throwing his hands into the air. "I'm not a person who generally speaks out much."
Afterward, out in the hallway, Cassell was more blunt.
"The lying thieves won," he told a reporter. "That's all I have to say."
Cassell is now convicted under a relatively new statute that outlines illegal dog breeding, RCW 16.52.310. He can serve his sentence in work release.
Laura Clark, executive director of the Humane Society, called the outcome "a real victory for all the animals involved." All 48 dogs were given to nonprofit adoption agencies or adopted into new homes.
Reach CALEB HUTTON at email@example.com or call 715-2276.