A Pierce County Superior Court judge has issued a bench warrant for a 27-year-old Lakewood man charged with leaving nine puppies to die in a wooded area on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
KOMO-TV reported that Christopher G. Merrick didn’t appear for a court hearing Friday. He was charged with first-degree animal cruelty, a felony, in December.
A Lakewood animal control officer contacted Merrick in September 2011 after receiving an anonymous complaint.
Merrick initially said he left the puppies at the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County but later changed his story when the officer learned that wasn’t true, court records say. He said he gave the puppies to an associate he wouldn’t identify.
A Humane Society employee verified to the officer Merrick brought the puppies but left after learning there was a fee to surrender them. The Humane Society told KOMO they try to work with owners who can’t afford the fee in order to prevent dumping.
Two people riding horses on separate occasions on the base later found the puppies and reported the discovery. One puppy was “horribly dehydrated and seemed to be staggering blindly,” court records say. Another puppy’s eyes were swollen and his backbone protruded above a visible rib cage.
A veterinarian diagnosed the puppies with infection and a severe parasitic skin infection. KOMO reported one of the puppies died but the others are doing well.