By Marlee Ginter, SeattlePI.com
Jason and Serenna Larsen were each given a year in jail for each of six felony counts...In addition, the Larsens must pay roughly $3,000 in penalties and more than $30,000 in restitution.
The couple accused of starving, dehydrating and suffocating at least six animals while working at a kennel in Gold Bar has been given the maximum sentence allowed.
Jason and Serenna Larsen were each given a year in jail for each of six felony counts. However, they will be allowed to serve all six sentences concurrently, which effectively reduces their sentences to just one year each. And Serenna Larsen will serve her time on work release.
In addition, the Larsens must pay roughly $3,000 in penalties and more than $30,000 in restitution.
In court on Monday, some were simply stunned by the sentence.
"I don't think that's fair to the community. I don't think that's fair to the animals," said Rose Adams, who gathered most of the evidence against the Larsens. "The animals had to live in cages. Why shouldn't she have to sit in a cell for year along with her husband?"
Home video obtained by KOMO News showed 150 dogs - many of them puppies - starving and crammed into cages at a home in Gold Bar. Animal control found six puppies dead in a freezer.
"Some of the feces were piled so high, the probable cause affidavit indicates the dogs were able to use it to jump from one pen to the other," a prosecutor said.
In interviews with investigators, the Larsens said they been breeding dogs since 2007 and admitted that they "were in way over our head," according to court documents. The Larsens told detectives they had started by breeding 28 dogs.
The couple pleaded guilty to six felony animal-cruelty charges. But on Monday, the Larsens threw themselves at the mercy of the court, claiming they didn't know they were working for the owner of a puppy mill.
The kennel belongs to Mary Ann Holleman, whose parents, Marjorie and Richard Sundberg, were charged in a separate animal cruelty case in Skagit County.
"None of these animals were harmed by my client," said Micky Crom, attorney for Serenna Larsen.
"They didn't profit from this enterprise," added Gabriel Rothstein, attorney for Jason Larsen. "There's a third party that runs puppy mills. At best, they were practically indentured servants, slaves to this third party."
But the judge didn't buy it.
"The financial difficulties that, from time to time, people are in are simply not sufficient mitigation," said Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel before handing down the maximum sentence.
Maximum or not, the sentence left Adams fuming.
"Those animals were treated like they were nothing, like they were garbage. And you wouldn't treat your child that way. Why would you treat your animal that way?" she said.
Kennel owner, parents, sister also under probe
In addition to Holleman's kennel, investigators also raided the homes of Holleman and her sister, Renee Roske, last January. At that time, Roske said some of her dogs were at her parents' kennel in Skagit County.
Roske's claim led detectives to Marjorie and Richard Sundberg's Mount Vernon kennel where they seized nearly 450 dogs.
Detectives said the dogs were kept in tight cages contaminated with feces and urine that sat alongside bodies of dead dogs in unheated spaces. Many dogs had been left without any food or water. Veterinarians later determined some of dogs were suffering from coccidia, an intestinal disease, and many others were pregnant.
The Sundbergs were each charged with four counts of animal cruelty in the first degree, four counts of animal cruelty in the second degree and one count of transporting or confining in an unsafe manner. They have pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Neither Roske nor Holleman have been charged; however, the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are seeking customers who may have purchased a dog from Roske or Wags N Wiggles Pet Shop, which she runs out of her Snohomish Home. Anyone who thinks they may have gotten a dog from Roske is urged to e-mail Snohomish County investigators.