WINLOCK — Roy Wilson walks around his Dorning Road home, where several goats and rabbits, a friendly orange cat, and about 30 dogs live with him and his wife, Cherilyn.
Wilson, 91, is spry and energetic, and he’s eager to show the artifacts of Native American history he keeps at a museum on the property. But recent events have strained the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s relationship with its former spiritual leader and left him “heartbroken.”
Lewis County deputies and veterinarians searched the Wilsons’ home Sept. 14 on reports of animal mistreatment. Lewis County prosecutors have charged both of the Wilsons with first-degree animal cruelty, a felony, and five counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. While trials await, Roy Wilson already has lost his position as long-time spiritual leader with the tribe and been condemned by several prominent Cowlitz members.
Wilson said much of the sheriff’s reports of conditions at his home were exaggerated. And he said he and his wife of 25 years, who now is 68, have complied with everything the county said needed to be done to improve the animals’ conditions in order to keep the county from seizing them.
“There’s been no animal cruelty,” Wilson told The Daily News on Wednesday. “The animals have been well-fared, well-doctored, well taken care of” and the couple have not been running a puppy mill, he added.
But the allegations have taken their toll on Wilson, who said he’s been in “isolation and solitude” and “somewhat miserable” since news broke of the allegations. He stands by his innocence.
Cherilyn Wilson did not return multiple requests for comment.
“I have led the tribe successfully, in many different ways,” Wilson said. “That’s all been cut off from me now. My heart is broken because of what’s happening. And I had no power over it.”
Lewis County senior deputy prosecutor Brad Meagher said the county doesn’t plan to arrest the couple while the case against them proceeds. All but three of the dogs appeared to have been moved into kennels on the Wilsons’ property by Wednesday.
In a 122-page report, deputies described an “overwhelming odor of feces and ammonia” and several places on the floor where the dogs appeared to have defecated. Wilson told deputies the dogs were not allowed outside and his wife had them use potty pads.
Inside the house, “the dogs that were running about appeared to be in good condition, other than being dirty with what appeared to be dried feces on their fur,” a deputy wrote.
But “there were three cages containing two dogs each … (which) had feces and urine in them (and) the food and water bowls were empty,” the deputy wrote. Their cages were “deplorable, dirty, unsanitary and did not meet their basic needs,” another deputy wrote.
A veterinarian noted the cages each held a female and un-neutered male — what appeared to the vet to be “breeding pairs” — but Wilson told deputies his wife hadn’t sold a dog in about 15 years.
In a barn on the property, “feces … covered most of the ground (five) dogs had access to” in the kennels, where “the dog’s water dishes were filthy” and “one had a decomposing mouse in it,” according to another deputy report.
Another deputy described the smell from the kennel and decomposing rodent as “grotesque and overwhelming.”
Wilson said Wednesday the bowl was clean earlier that day and that it was “not true” that the mouse deputies found was decomposed.
The deputies also found “Ninny,” a pony afflicted with a painful hoof condition in which its hooves had grown deformed and become crippled. Her condition, according to a veterinarian, was preventable with proper care, but trimming would no longer be effective, and with Wilson’s permission the county euthanized the pony.
Wilson acknowledge that Ninny had not been seen by a farrier in more than three years, though he told TDN the pony’s hooves had been trimmed at least once a month before her farrier became unavailable.
He agreed Wednesday there were too many dogs in the house, but said his wife put down new potty pads and mopped every day to keep up with them.
“You have 28 dogs in that house, there’s gonna be some aroma, but it was not as bad as what he said,” Wilson said. “I myself was objecting to it all.”
Wilson said Wednesday that the dogs were small enough that they could fit comfortably two to a crate, and claimed the deputy lied about the conditions in the cages.
“Every dog has fresh water, every day,” Wilson said. “(They were) not matted with feces.”
The kennels were filthy, Wilson acknowledged, but he said the dog runs in the barn were regularly cleaned.
But he admitted that dealing with all of the dogs in the house was “a nightmare.”
“There was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “My salvation came (in September) when the humane society came and they told her, ‘You can’t have those in the house.’ ”
Prosecutors, however, are not concerned about who owns each animal.
“(It) doesn’t matter to me at all,” Meagher said Monday. “I don’t think it matters to the case, either.”
A Kitsap County property belonging to Cherilyn Wilson was investigated in September and found to have dogs living in “filthy” conditions. (A status report on that case was unavailable Monday.)
The Kitsap Sun reported in September that 36 pets, many showing signs of skin and dental disease, were recovered from that Bremerton home where they lived in feces- and trash-filled conditions. Roy Wilson said he hasn’t been in there for about 15 years and has nothing to do with it. His wife drove to the house regularly to care for the dogs, he said.
Wilson said Wednesday that some of the tribe’s powers-that-be want to expel him from the tribe. (He appears before the Cowlitz Tribal Council on Saturday, but the potential consequences were unclear.)
“I hold no bitterness towards them,” he said. “I feel very, very, very sorry for them, for it is true that what goes around comes around. … They’re in for the spirit world to take judgment on them, and if that happens while I’m still alive, I want them to know that in my forgiving them, I will be there to pray for their healing.”