SEATTLE - A West Seattle man was charged this week with 17 counts of animal cruelty involving over 200 animals found on his property in October, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said on Friday.
Matthew Hazelbrook was arrested last month after multiple community reports lead police to search his property. Officials found dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, mice, and chinchillas in cages outside, inside the house, in a structure in the backyard, and in a building next door.
Behind several trees on the property, glimpses of cages can be seen through the piles of trash and debris on the front lawn. Officers served a warrant to search the inside and outside of the man’s property. Court documents said in every room of the man’s house were animals in cages—two of them dead, and floors covered in hay, feces, and food. At least three skeletons were found in cages in the backyard. In a rundown structure behind the house, officers found two large dog skeletons. The man told officers he also owned the house next door—where they found about 75 skeletons in varying stages of decay.
Hazelbrook is expected to appear in court on November 25th. His bond, set by the judge on Oct. 16th, is $7,500 bail. The judge has ordered Hazelbrook to not possess, own, transport, or reside with any animals, to not leave Washington state, to keep his address up-to-date with the court, and have no new law violations.
The rescued animals were taken to the Seattle Animal Shelter where they were evaluated and treated. The shelter previously said this case is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they've seen in years.
“This is the worst case of animal neglect and cruelty I’ve seen in more than 20 years of doing this work, and it’s quite possibly the worst case our shelter has ever handled,” Seattle Animal Shelter Director Ann Graves said in a statement last month.
The shelter also says the number of severe animal cruelty cases so far in 2020 has doubled compared to previous years combined. They say the average number of animal cruelty cases over the past five years is 12. The shelter says in the past 10 months alone, they have sent 27 cases to either city or county prosecutors.
“The number of cases is not only alarming,” Graves said in an online statement. “It’s the severe nature of the cases that also causes concern.”
If you suspect an animal is being harmed, you can contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at 206-386-7387 or the King County Regional Animal Shelter at 206-296-7387 (PETS).