Investigators found at least 17 pets dead inside a foreclosed and abandoned Granite Falls home after a locksmith reported a foul odor, the police chief said Saturday.
Police Chief Dennis Taylor said he found 15 to 20 dead cats and two dead dogs at the home Friday, and obtained a search warrant for the residence.
"Does the word 'indescribable' mean anything to you?" he told The Seattle Times. "These were deplorable conditions - feces 3 inches deep over every surface of the house and six months of garbage everywhere."
The house had been owned by a 65-year-old woman who lived there with her 36-year-old son, Taylor said. Fannie Mae foreclosed on it in October, and the property manager sent the locksmith to change the locks on Friday.
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Though the home was abandoned, the son returned occasionally. It wasn't immediately clear when he was last at the home, the chief told The Associated Press.
"We have interviewed the mother and son, and there is no reasonable explanation," he said. "We released them pending referral of charges to the prosecutor."
The carcasses, many badly decomposed, were found all over - on shelves, in a box and under furniture.
Three terribly emaciated American shorthair cats survived and were turned over to Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal sanctuary northeast of Seattle, Taylor said. Staff from the sanctuary helped police remove the remains and planned to perform necropsies to determine the cause of death.
Animal cruelty charges are punishable up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.