Animal control officers rescue 48 dogs from Ferndale 'puppy mill'

FERNDALE, Wash. -- Animal control officers with the Whatcom Humane Society rescued close to 50 dogs from a suspected puppy mill earlier this month, and now a Ferndale man is facing jail time for animal cruelty.

Neighbors in the quiet, rural area said the noises coming from Kenneth Cassell's barn were getting louder each day.

"All through the night we'd hear dogs howling, during the day when I come home - all throughout the day," said neighbor Greg Roth.

On April 6, the Whatcom Humane Society seized 48 miniature Australian Shepherd dogs from a locked barn behind Cassell's house.

WHS director Laura Clark said the dogs were living in conditions that can only be described as "squalid and inhumane." She said many of the dogs were filthy, had matted fur and overgrown nails and were covered with feces.

Roth said he had a feeling something wasn't right with the barn.

"It sort of went through our heads too, you know, if he was caring for the dogs?" Roth said. "You didn't know if he was feeding them or not?"

Roth said he's talked to Cassell a couple of times and described him as an older man who mostly kept to himself.

Last Friday, Cassell was cited for 21 counts of second degree animal cruelty, 42 counts of failure to provide legal space and 40 counts of failure to provide water.

The rescued dogs were taken to the Whatcom Humane Society. Most of them are underweight and are exhibiting traits associated with dogs kept confined to cages with little socialization. Some of them were actually pregnant, so the number of dogs has now jumped to 58.

Cassell will make an appearance in Whatcom District Court on April 27.