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South Kitsap ‘zoo’ collects complaints

Kitsap County Animal Control Officer Jody Rosenblad talk with South Kitsap resident Joe Cook, Sr., about taking proper care of the animals on his property.  - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Kitsap County Animal Control Officer Jody Rosenblad talk with South Kitsap resident Joe Cook, Sr., about taking proper care of the animals on his property.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

While many in South Kitsap may not be aware that longtime resident Joe Cook is trying to open a petting zoo, his neighbors and Kitsap County Animal Control officers certainly are.

“It is the most filthiest of places,” said a neighbor who asked that her name be withheld, describing the 3.5 acre property near Mile Hill Drive as full of odd bits of wire, carpet and only filthy water for the dozens of rabbits, chickens, goats and other animals. “It is appalling.”

The neighbor said she drives by the house every day and finds it very distressing to see the conditions at what Cook calls the South Kitsap Animal Land Zoo, for which he displays a Washington State Business License.

“It is horrible — the animals need help,” she said, explaining that the animals are out “in the mud and cold” and she has called Animal Control to report the situation more than once. She said officers have visited the property at least three times, but that little has changed.

“I just want (the animals) to have shelter, proper food and clean water — every living thing deserves that,” she said, adding that she has offered to help him take care of his property and his animals, but he refuses. “I’ve tried talking to him, but he doesn’t think anything is wrong — he says the animals are fine.”

Animal Control Officer Jon Teer said he was familiar with the property and confirmed that his office has received numerous complaints about it, and has followed up on the reports.

Teer said Cook is “not in any violation,” and there is no limit to the amount of chickens and rabbits he can have on his property. He said Cook is allowed to have livestock on his land because it has been “grandfathered in” — Cook’s parents and grandparents previously owned it and had such animals on it.

However, Teer said the animals do need to have proper food, water and shelter, and that Cook has had problems providing all three in the past.

“The first time, he didn’t have the right shelter,” Teer said, explaining that Animal Control officers now make regular welfare checks at the property and have seen improvements.

“(The animals) have shelter, and they’ve always got food and water,” he said. “His place is not the nicest to look at, and it’s not the best place (for animals), but it’s not cruel.”

In October, Animal Control Officer Jody Rosenblad visited the property and told Cook his animals needed better shelter, food and water supplies.

“All domestic animals need to have appropriate shelter,” Rosenblad told Cook, as reported in a Nov. 3, 2007, story in the Central Kitsap Reporter. “They’re drinking their own fecal matter and that just doesn’t cut the mustard.”

Rosenblad said Cook had cleaned up the zoo a little since her last visit, but more still needed to be done.

This week, Cook said he had to call Animal Control himself recently after two dogs got onto his property and killed about 30 of his animals, including rabbits, chicken and pheasants.

“I’m going to be out of animals for a while,” Cook said, explaining that last weekend he already bought more rabbits, and has been trying to rebuild the animals’ pens and prevent dogs or other predators from getting to them.

“I’d like to build an 8-foot chain-link fence around the whole property, but I don’t have the money,” he said, explaining that he also had to put padlocks on some of the pens to prevent people from opening them and letting the animals free.

“People don’t like me having them,” Cook said. When asked why that might be, he said “I’ve got weird neighbors.”

He said his animals are properly cared for, and that “people don’t understand that you can’t just leave a huge amount of food out in the front yard.”

He said he is not deterred from his dream of eventually opening up a petting zoo, but that he currently needs more animals.

“Who’s going to pay a dollar to look at animals that aren’t here?” he said.

Central Kitsap Reporter staff writer Rachel Brant contributed to this report.

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