Dozens of people have lined up outside the Evergreen Pet Shop in Spokane Valley Sunday morning to adopt what pets are left at the abandoned store and buy up merchandise at a discounted price.
The store, located at 14319 East Sprague Avenue, was shut down by the Department of Revenue in July.
According to the owners of the store, they were able to care for the animals until the landlord, Joe Mayo, changed the locks two days ago.
Mayo says the owners of Evergreen Pet Shop were behind on rent, but that he was still trying to work with them. Mayo says he offered to take on selling off the store's assets and had the owners sign a document that they were leaving and that he could use the profits from the sale of the pets and merchandise to pay for back rent.
Mayo says his meeting with the owners happened Friday morning and on Friday afternoon when he entered the store he discovered a few dead rats and mice. At that point, he began selling the animals and merchandise that were left.
Sunday morning, the Evergreen Pet Shop owners issued this email statement:
"I am the owner of evergreen pet. This is in response to what has been said in concerns of the pet store and the actual events. We regret that persons feel that we have not taken care of the business we worked so hard at. Last year the store had a fire in the fish area, the contractor sublet work out that caused that area to be closed for about six months. Along with the road construction this last summer, ( 3 months) this put us in a situation that was not probable.
In early August the store was forced to close. However during the time it was closed we have had personnel in on a daily basis to maintain the daily duties of the store, with the intent of reopening. We then realized that reopening would not be possible. Over this time period we were working with the property owner to help find a way to sell the assets to offset mounting costs. The landlord had advised us that he was trying to work with other local pet stores to help find homes for all the animals. At the end of last week the landlord changed the locks and we were no longer able to reenter the premise to take care of the animals. Up until this time the animals were maintained on a daily basis. We regret the situation that has happened, and are happy that animal are being placed into homes."
Customers say they found several dead animals in the store.
KXLY got a number of calls Saturday night, from people who thought the animals were abandoned. By Sunday morning, almost all of them had been sold or placed in homes. The store operators and the landlord say the whole situation is a huge misunderstanding.
"I heard a lot of the animals died in here and I'm just coming to see what i can do to help," customer James Horn said.
Saturday night people swarmed into the Evergreen Pet Store, as they thought the animals were suffering. By the end of the night, almost every pet found an owner.
"They need homes, they need love, they're in horrible condition they need medications," Horn said.
Some said the store was dusty, dirty, smells, and the animals look thin.
"I was really upset because what I saw in there was just horrible," Kelly Blume said.
Blume bought four rats that, that she said had no food or water. Blume noted that she was impressed by how the community was coming together and supporting the animals. She said that after another woman saw her adopt four rats and gave her some money in the parking lot to help with the rats.
"They were really lethargic, all of them were, they were scared."
The animals are gone and the landlord, not the owner, is selling everything off. Neither of them would go on camera and the owner Kurt asked us not to use his last name because of online threats he's received.
Here's what we know: the store was shut down in August by the Department of Revenue claiming the owners had more than $10,000 dollars in unpaid taxes and penalties. Kurt also had financial problems and couldn't pay rent. Since then, he said his staff would come in every day to take care of the animals. They were hoping to re-open but couldn't, and so on Friday the landlord agreed with Kurt he would take over and sell everything.
The question that still remains is how many animals were found dead and what kind of animals. The landlord says there were only a few dead mice and rats found, which many say is still unacceptable.
"I can't believe anyone could do this to any of these animals," James Horn said.