PORTLAND, Ore. – A Rainier woman faces multiple felony charges for allegedly running a puppy mill.
The 118 dogs seized from the dog breeder are doing well. The Oregon Humane Society invited KATU to see the dogs on Tuesday.
“They’re on the road to recovery, but many of them were not in good shape at all when we seized them, said Sharon Harmon, the Executive Director of the Oregon Humane Society.
Columbia County sheriff's deputies and the Humane Society removed the animals from Catherine Setere's property near Rainier in mid-November. They received a complaint that the dogs and 21 horses were living in unsanitary conditions. A cat was also taken from the property.
Setere, 66, pleaded not guilty to charges of animal neglect. She was arraigned on felonies instead of misdemeanors Monday because of the recent passage of Oregon Senate Bill 6. The law was championed by the Oregon Humane Society. The law toughened the penalty for neglect offenses involving 10 or more animals.
If convicted, Setere could spend years in prison, be barred from owning domestic animals for five years and ordered to pay a steep fine.
"Everything they said - that I didn't feed my dogs, that they were starved - it's just not so," she said in a phone interview Tuesday. The Humane Society said the animals were found in inadequate shelter in unsanitary conditions and lacking water.
With the case still active, the animals are not available for adoption yet.
“These animals are evidence in a criminal trial and belong to the defendant. Until the courts make a change in that ownership they’ll remain in our custody,” said Harmon.
The rescued dogs - 67 Akitas, plus smaller breeds such as terriers and dachshunds - are living in an emergency shelter, while Gresham-based Sound Equine Options has found stables for the seized horses.
Setere said she lived in Japan in the mid- to late 1960s and started owning Akitas shortly after returning to the United States. Setere said she lived in her house for more than two decades without failing a kennel inspection and has previously been a best-in-show breeder of two dogs.
"There's no way out of this with the amount of money that this is costing me," Setere said. "There is no good way out for my reputation, ever again."