Firefighters responded to a warehouse-like building near Tumwater where 18 dogs died of smoke inhalation.
The deceased included three mothers and their 15 puppies.
Thurston County Animal Services said 19 other dogs were found safe in kennels inside the building. Another dog and cat were rescued and treated for smoke inhalation. About 40 animals in total were on site.
Sharon Gold, the owner of the dogs, said she runs a rescue called Furever Home. Gold told KIRO 7 she had just moved her operation to this location Sunday.
“There’s no words to describe, you know – what I feel and what these dogs went through today,” Gold said.
Animal Services said Thursday’s fire was ruled an accident.
Gold said her friend had been helping with laundry and had left the dryer running, which sparked the fire.
She said she has been running the organization for seven years in Washington state.
Thurston County Animal Services said their staff has investigated Gold before after receiving citizen complaints about actions at her former locations.
Animal Services said there was never any evidence of abuse or neglect.
The remaining issue of the number of dogs allowed at one location is a matter for code enforcement to handle. It is not known yet whether Tumwater code enforcement will investigate the facility in Thursday’s fire.
“The dog owner in this case would have needed a kennel license in this case from the city of Tumwater. The kennel license is required for any facility that has over four adult dogs or cats,” said Anna Johnson, an animal control officer.
Gold told KIRO 7 she had not obtained that license.
“We just moved here on Sunday. Monday morning, I got an emergency call from my sister in California. I had to fly to California. I didn’t have time to deal with anything yet,” she said.
When Gold found out about the fire, she immediately got on a plane back to Seattle. She spoke to KIRO 7 immediately after returning to the property.
When asked about previous complaints against her, Gold said, “I’ve been called every name in the book. I don’t care. I know who I am. I know what I do. When animal control doesn’t go to save a dog, I do. When there’s dogs that are injured or broken and nobody else wants them, I take them.
The blind, the deaf, the 10-year-olds, they have no teeth, the three-legged dogs, I still take them. And I find them good homes. I don’t ever give up on dogs. I would go through fire and water for a dog.”
Cox Media Group