Christopher Merrick has been charged with animal cruelty. He failed to appear in court on Friday.
Merrick is accused of dumping emaciated and dehydrated dogs in the woods near JBLM. 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.
But the accused man's mother says they tried to care for the dogs.
"We didn't abandon our dogs; we took them to go get help," said Lori Merrick.
After their dog had a litter of 9, Lori Merrick says her son tried to drop them off at the Humane Society. But when he was told there was a fee, he left with the dogs instead, according to court documents.
"I couldn't afford no $900," she said.
The Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County says it does charge an owner turn-in fee.
"We do ask that people to put up a fee for several reasons. One is it does cost a lot to care for pets, and also because (we) don't just want to be the easy, free dumping place," said Marguerite Richmond of the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County.
But when people can't afford the fee, the Humane Society does work with the owners, Richmond said.
"You know, that's why we exist. That's why we're here -- so that animals don't get dumped," she said.
After leaving the shelter, Lori Merrick said, her son turned elsewhere for help.
"It was an acquaintance of his friend, and he would take the pups and adopt them out. And the next thing we know, Animal Control is asking about it and telling us they found the pups at Fort Lewis," she said.
During the investigation,Christopher Merrick positively identified two of the puppies found as having come from the litter he claimed to have given to an associate, according to court documents.
"He's not guilty of animal cruelty. I have three dogs now," said Lori Merrick.
One of the nine puppies found did not survive, but the others are all doing well in their new homes.