Man accused of abandoning puppies charged with animal cruelty

TACOMA, Wash. -- The 27-year old Lakewood man accused of abandoning nine emaciated puppies in the woods was charged Tuesday with animal cruelty.

Christopher Merrick is accused of dumping the emaciated and dehydrated dogs in the woods near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Investigators say the animals' ribs were protruding and their paws were swollen to twice the size. Some had their eyes swollen shut with mucus. Others were bleeding from open sores.

A Lakewood Animal Control officer first received an anonymous complaint about Merrick and went to his house to check on the dogs in September. Merrick allegedly told the officer he had taken nine 6-month old puppies to the Humane Society, but the officer soon found out that wasn't true.

The Humane Society's kennel supervisor told the officer that Merrick brought the dogs in, but decided not to leave them after learning he would have to pay a fee.

Merrick's mother defended her son's actions last week.

"We didn't abandon our dogs; we took them to go get help," said Lori Merrick. "I couldn't afford no $900."

Over the next several days, all nine puppies were found in the woods near JBLM. A veterinarian evaluated the puppies and determined that they had severe parasitic skin infections, which cause raw and hairless skin, a condition related to purposeful neglect, according to prosecutors.

One of the nine puppies found did not survive, but the others are all doing well in their new homes.

Merrick is set to be arraigned Wednesday morning.