TACOMA — A 34-year-old South Sound mom is accused of drowning four puppies in a toilet because she couldn’t sell them.
The defendant, Ginger Hartson, of Lakewood, pleaded not guilty to four counts of animal cruelty before a Pierce County Superior Court judge Tuesday.
Police said she drowned four pit bull terriers and then tossed them in a box inside a trash container.
“I was shocked that that had to happen in my house and my bathroom,” said Lakewood resident Jerry Lerhman, who explained that Hartson lived with his family for a couple of weeks inside their Thorne Lane apartment.
But when management found out she had eight dogs inside, Lerhman said, Hartson was asked to get rid of them.
“All she had to do was tell me that that was she was going to do and I’d have found an option,” said Lerhman. “I’d have taken it upon myself to find a home for them.”
Court documents say Hartson methodically drowned each puppy one at a time in the toilet.
According to police, Hartson told her young son afterward that if she didn’t kill the dogs, animal control would euthanize them anyway.
Prosecutors said the woman wrote a statement, saying she did not kill the puppies for “glee or pleasure,” but instead because she thought she had no other choice, and assumed they would be killed at the shelter.
“For a kid that age to listen to some of the things she was telling him, it has to be damaging,” said Lerhman.
Court documents say Hartson gave two surviving puppies away but the other four wouldn’t sell.
Her former roommates are still trying to understand why she would drown the puppies instead of giving them to animal control.
“What can you say? There’s nothing I can do about that,” said Lerhman. “I’m very sad about the situation.”
Hartson was ordered held in jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Prosecutors contend Hartson has a history of animal abuse, saying that she left dogs inside her car on two different occasions in 2001.