County investigating dog rescue organization
Columbia County officials say they are investigating a nonprofit dog rescue organization that could be running an unpermitted kenneling operation.
All Terrier Rescue, Hunters Crossing Inc., a dog adoption organization operating in-part from a home on Old Mill Road in Scappoose owned by Samantha Miller, offers up dogs of various breeds, ages and sizes for adoption.
County code enforcement and land use officials say they're investigating whether the Old Mill Road site is kenneling dogs on behalf of ATR, after the organization claimed ATR cares for "anywhere from 50 to 100 dogs at any given time" and briefly advertised adoption events at the rural Scappoose home.
"The property is under active investigation," Todd Dugdale, Columbia County's director of Land Use Services, confirmed Friday, Nov. 10. "We are reviewing the evidence and evaluating our enforcement options."
The home's entrance is now dotted with "No Trespassing" signs that instruct visitors to check with the Oregon Humane Society for adoptable dogs.
Miller, one of the principal operators of ATR, is no stranger to county land use officials. This isn't the first time her property has been alleged to house more than the nine dogs allowed without a kennel permit.
"She has neither a kennel license from Dog Control nor a home occupation license for a kennel from Land Development Services," Dugdale noted. "We have been involved with complaints about this operation for years, and she has maintained that she has the less than 10 dogs that would trigger permits. The latest report of her rescue on this site was brought to our attention recently and we are investigating the complaints."
In 2009, Miller filed a lawsuit against the Columbia County Board of Commissioners after she applied for a kennel license and was denied by the county because her property did not meet the criteria. A circuit court judge upheld the county's decision in 2010.
Years later, Miller filed suit against the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, this time over a criminal matter in which she was arrested after a neighbor complained she pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him. A jury eventually sided with Miller, concluding malicious prosecution and false arrest, but an appeals court overturned the jury's award in favor of Miller. Miller appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, but the court denied her request to hear the case earlier this year.
PetSmart cuts ties with rescue
After the county began investigating the number of dogs kept on site last month, ATR quickly changed its website information and now advertises adoption events via Hannah the Pet Society at Washington Square Mall in Tigard.
Prior to partnering with Hannah the Pet Society, ATR routinely held dog adoption events at a PetSmart store in Washington County. The adoption events ceased not long after Portland news channel KGW aired a story about ATR withholding and refusing to give back a young boy's recently adopted dog, after the dog escaped the boy's family's home and was later returned to ATR.
PetSmart Charities issued a statement Wednesday about ending its years-long relationship with Miller's operation.
"All Terrier Rescue Hunters Crossing, Inc. was terminated from the PetSmart Charities In-store Adoption Program in October for violating the program's policies and procedures," the statement reads. "The organization is no longer allowed to facilitate adoptions at PetSmart stores."
Client says organization got paid on dangerous dog twice
Another Washington County woman says she adopted from ATR during a PetSmart adoption event in spring. Shortly afterward, she brought a dog back to ATR employees to inquire about behavioral issues after being attacked, and rather than training the dog as promised, the dog was instead confiscated and put up for adoption again a few days later.
The woman, who asked not to give her name, citing a gag order in ATR's adoption agreement forbidding adopters from speaking poorly about the rescue, said she adopted two young dogs from ATR after grieving the loss of two cats within a short time period. She had never owned dogs before, but attended an adoption event and was drawn to two terrier mixes — a male and female.
After taking the dogs home, she says one of them got extremely sick.
ATR instructed her not to take the dog to a veterinarian, but rather, the Aloha home of Jeri Miller, who runs ATR alongside Samantha Miller.
"In the middle of the street, she gave the dog an injection that I assumed was antibiotics and some cough drop pills," the adopter recalls. "There were other cars lined up behind me also waiting with dogs to be seen by Jeri."
That dog recovered, but not long afterward, the male dog became aggressive.
She says she again reached out to ATR to seek advice and was told to bring the dog in to see about some basic obedience training.
"I was assured in a couple days, I'd get him back," the woman says. "When I called a few days later, they said, 'He's not coming back to you. You're not getting him back.'"
"Much to my surprise, he was up for adoption that weekend with all the other dogs in the pen back at PetSmart," the adopter said.
She never got the dog, or her $300 adoption fee back.
ATR did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
At least one complaint has been filed with the Oregon Department of Justice against the organization, regarding its "cash-only" policy for nonrefundable adoption fees, which it calls "donations," as well as other practices.
A records request for DOJ complaints against the dog adoption organization is pending.