A Lewis County couple has voluntarily relinquished ownership of 25 horses and 50 goats after authorities filed criminal charges against them alleging animal abuse, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies and personnel from the Lewis County Health Department responded last Wednesday morning to 665 Tietzel Road, outside of Centralia, to investigate a report of livestock that appeared to be in poor health, according to the sheriff’s office.
Gerald D. Specht, 65, was arrested and booked into jail for alleged second-degree animal cruelty on Thursday, and the man’s wife, 58-year-old Wendy S. Specht was referred for suspected second-degree animal cruelty, which is a gross misdemeanor.
On Saturday, law enforcement personnel served a warrant on the property, and a state veterinarian and employees from the Lewis County Health Department assessed the health of the livestock on the property.
During the search, authorities located two dead horses that had not been properly disposed of and another horse that was so sick that it had to be euthanized, according to the sheriff’s office. The couple willingly gave up all of their remaining livestock.
The Washington State Livestock Coalition helped remove all of the animals. The horses were taken to Pierce County where they are under veterinary care and are being fed, according to the sheriff’s office. At least four of those horses are in “really bad” and possibly terminal condition, according to Bill Teitzel, the code compliance manager for Lewis County Public Health.
Additional charges against the couple are expected and the investigation is ongoing.
Code enforcement officials have had previous contact with the couple, and had been in contact with the property owners last fall regarding the health of the animals, according to the sheriff’s office. The condition of the animals at that time did not amount to anything criminal.
The couple — who have been living in a tent and an RV — also have been cited for occupation and solid waste violations, according to Teitzel.
Overwhelming life circumstances, rather than cruelty, seemed to be at the heart of the mistreatment.
“My take on this, and what I’m going to tell the prosecutor, is that these people were overwhelmed by what they had,” Teitzel said. “I think they ended up taking responsibility and taking some action.”
A reporter and photographer from The Chronicle went out to the property on Feb. 13 to investigate a news tip about horses in poor condition. The Chronicle waited to break the story until law enforcement and prosecutors confirmed on Monday afternoon that criminal charges against the couple were formally filed.