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Care for animals from cock- and dog- fighting operation estimated at $500,000

This dog was one of several found at a Pierce County property where a suspected dog- and cock-fighting operation was discovered in September. Photo courtesy of ASPCA

Care for about 2,000 animals saved in connection to a suspected Pierce County-based animal-fighting is estimated at almost $500,000.

At an Oct. 3 civil hearing for Senyen Vang and Houa Dai Yang — who are facing numerous drug and animal crime charges from the county and state — Pierce County Assistant Corporation Counsel attorney Jason Fey said the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated 30-day animal caretaking costs to be $496,755.

At the hearing, Fey sought an order to pay costs against Yang and for the county to acquire all animals. Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic postponed a decision on the costs, and is expected to approve the ownership request at a later date.

"Right now, the issue of cost is tabled," Fey said in an interview. "The bottom line is that we're asking for [transferring ownership of the animals.]"

As a nonprofit, the ASPCA absorbs the costs of rescuing animals typically, and provided the estimate in response to a county request. The county is using it for civil court proceedings against Yang, and it could come into play in either the criminal or civil cases.

As part of an agreement among the county, state and Vang, she gave up ownership of the animals to the county. The agreement entails she cannot be charged costs in relation to the animals, but it does not include Yang.

The agreement does not account for animals that could be born after it was signed or that were not initially accounted for. Fey also sought a court order that would move ownership of all Vang-related animals, regardless of date, to the county. The court is expected to move that order forward at a later date.

"My goal is to make sure every single animal is accounted for," he said. "If they miss two chickens, I don't see how that would be an unreasonable mistake given the volume."

The animals were removed Aug. 30 after U.S. marshals arrested Yang and saw drugs at his and Vang's town of Gilman home. Local deputies found the drugs and a suspected animal fighting operation in a subsequent search. The ASPCA has been caring for the animals since.

According to the ASPCA website, the group provides medical treatment and seeks new homes for the animals after rescues. Fey said it is possible though that some animals could be held initially for evidence.

In a news release from the initial discovery, the ASPCA said the animals were found living in "deplorable conditions" and taken to emergency shelters. Dogs on the property were found with with injuries consistent with dogfighting and roosters appeared to be used for cockfighting, according to the organization.

Vang was arrested Sept. 5 on suspicion of meth possession. She is currently facing 43 felony counts of possessing animals to be instigated for fighting, and felony drug charges.

The Vang-Yang case is the second major animal cruelty case in Pierce County in the last two years. In 2016, Elmwood-area resident Stuart West was convicted for 62 separate charges in relation to an animal abuse investigation.