By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
A plea of not guilty was entered yesterday in the case of the Centralia man who was arrested when authorities came to his property and seized 17 puppies and 21 other dogs they found living in filthy conditions in a motorhome.
Jimmie R. Jemison, 49, was in court yesterday afternoon, charged not with animal cruelty as the sheriff’s office expected back on May 1, but with a violation of state law related to dog breeding. And also with obstructing a law enforcement officer.
Both are gross misdemeanors, with maximum penalties of up to a year in jail.
Jemison also asked the court in writing to make the county return his animals. They are being held at the Lewis County Animal Shelter.
Lewis County District Court Judge Michael Roewe denied the petition, based on numerous issued raised by prosecutors indicating the filing was flawed.
The Centralia man leaned on his walker and asked the judge: “What does that mean, do I lose my dogs?”
Judge Roewe told him he needed to ask his attorney that question.
“Can I ask a question? What happens to my dogs,” Jemison said.
“I don’t have the answer,” Roewe replied.
Jemsion told the judge he plans to hire a lawyer.
Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge he’d instructed the shelter to hold onto the animals, because they are evidence.
Jemison clearly distressed, put his face in his hands as he sat on a bench outside the courtroom following the hearing.
“My dogs mean everything,” he said, stifling sobs. “I spent seven years coming up with those colors.”
“I’ve lost my family, all I have are my dogs.”
Jemison lives on a $700 a month disability check, he said, on rural property he shares with his brother on the 1600 block of Little Hanaford Road.
Photographs shared by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office after the May 1 visit by deputies, code enforcement and humane officers show a 30-foot motorhome and various outbuildings.
Inside the roughly 30-foot long recreational vehicle, the pictures showed numerous portable kennels, some stacked on top of each other; the sheriff’s office said the animals were were sleeping and eating in their own waste.
Thirty-eight dogs were removed from the motorhome. Jemison says he has a new motorhome, but hadn’t yet gotten it set up.
Other animals on the property – such as chickens, a goat and seven dogs – which were living in clean cages and spaces were left behind.
The allegation was he was breeding puppies in unsanitary conditions.
The animal offense he is charged with is not part of the state criminal code, but part of the state code related to dog breeding, and the requirements that if the animals are kept in an enclosure the majority of the day, certain minimum standards of cleanliness, care and protection must be provided. RCW 16.52.310(2)(c)
Jemison said he spends $170 each month for dog food and doesn’t smoke or drink and suffers from social phobia.
His days are spent, he said, sitting outside in his chair watching his dogs play with the goat.
Every six or seven months when he gets a new litter to sell, he can buy a used car, that will hopefully keep running until the next litter, he said.
“I take care of my dogs, and then they take care of me,” he said.
His friend Ken Smith who drove him to the courthouse in Chehalis agreed Jemison is devoted to his animals, and said he lives in a way that maybe not others would live.
“He takes care of his dogs before himself,” Smith said. “It just happens that four or five dogs all had puppies at the same time.”
Jemison said the reason the deputies found the motorhome’s interior in the condition it was in was because he spent nine days holed up inside, fearing they were coming to take his animals.
The sheriff’s office described Jemison as uncooperative on numerous occasions as attempts were made to investigate the situation, which led to the search warrant.
Jemison said when they arrived that afternoon, he opened his door and was zapped with a Taser and while he was laying on the ground in the mud, his boxer dog got wound up with all the commotion and bit him on the leg.
“They treated me like I killed somebody,” he said.
He wasn’t booked into jail, he was taken to the hospital, where he spent almost 25 days being treated for two wounds he fears may cause him to lose his leg.
Jemison said he was released from Harborview Medical Center on Sunday, and has to visit a wound care doctor daily. It’s painful, he said.
“Because I wouldn’t show them my dogs in the barn,” he said. “That’s why they did the search warrant.”
For background, read “RV serving as home, doghouse for nearly 40 canines found near Centralia” from Friday May 2, 2014, here