Another Survivor’s Story of “We Heart Seattle”
by North Seattle Neighbors
On Saturday July 3, Andrea Suarez and several volunteers from We Heart Seattle came to a Seattle park for what they called a trash pickup. As often happens during their visits, they mis-identified a campsite as abandoned and removed possessions of someone still living in the park. On that same visit, they encountered several dogs which they assumed — without evidence — to have been stolen. They later posted photos of three dogs on Facebook, indicating that the dogs were stolen. They referred to their visit as a “rescue mission”.
We are a group of neighbors that have been visiting that park, along with other parks, since last summer. We happen to know all the dogs that We Heart Seattle met that day, and we know their owners. We spoke on Sunday July 4 with several of the owners and were able to learn what actually happened during We Heart Seattle’s visit. Thankfully, none of the dogs were kidnapped, because people living in the park know each other and know each other’s dogs, and those people look out for each other whenever they can.
These are the testimonies of those residents of the park. They asked us to share what they told us. To protect their identities, we are calling them T, J, and K. In their testimonies, they refer to two other friends in the park whom we call M and TR.
I was sitting on the grass unpacking and repacking some stuff, frustrated with life and a lot of things. My dog Mozi was with me. This woman [whom she later realized was Andrea Suarez] came up to me with another man and woman in orange vests. She looks at Mozi and says “Oh, who’s this?” and pets him. I tell her my dog’s name is Mozi. “Oh,” she says, taking a snarky tone, “why does his name tag say Trey?” I knew right away she was someone I didn’t trust. Was she gonna call police or animal control or try to take my dog away? The collar was something I found on the ground. My dog is registered to my name, has a finder microchip. We keep our dogs chained around here because people try to steal them. I told her I didn’t feel like interacting with people today. I got up and moved away.
This other woman comes around sometimes. [Not Andrea Suarez but apparently an associate.] She comes that day and says “How are you?” I tell her I’m bad, I need a new tent. She says “Okay. I hope you get a new tent.” I ask if she can help getting into a shelter. She says “No.”
Later she comes back and tells me there are two abandoned tents that they’ve found. We [J and K] go over to see, and people there start yelling at us that the tents are not free, they’re being used, they’re being lived in. I go back and find her and say “Thanks a lot, you got us into trouble.” She says “It’s not my fault. We were just telling you.”
Then we see her with Andrea Suarez — yes I know who that is. They have Princess with them, M’s dog. We say “Hey that’s not your dog.” Andrea says “It’s okay, I’m saving her.”
We found out that TR was watching Princess and Andrea came up to him and said “Why do you keep them chained up?” TR said “We have to. I don’t have a yard.” Andrea said “Can we take him? We’ll buy him.” TR was hurting for money that day, so when they offered him $100, he took it. And they took Princess away. TR should have asked us.
TR was trying to sell a tent earlier in the day. He was having a hard time.
We saw 4 or 5 people walking away with Princess. We said “Hey, where are you going with that dog?” and they said “We bought it.” “Well whoever sold you, she wasn’t theirs to sell.” Then this one woman [whom she later realized was Andrea Suarez] said “It’s okay, we’re taking her to a good home. We took her because she was chained up. Pretty sure she was stolen.” And then she looks at my dog, and she says “That’s a cute dog. Where’d you get him?” She was taking photos of my dog. She kept insinuating we stole my dog. “This park is a co-op for stolen animals,” she said. I told her to please delete the photos she was taking.
It was none of her business but we got my dog on Craig’s list. Cost $600. His insurance is in my name.
We ran over to get M [the owner of Princess] and M got in her car and we drove over to catch those people. We couldn’t find them at first, so she went back to find TR. She got the $100 from him and we drove back and found those people this time. Some of those others tried to distract us and hold us off while Andrea was away somewhere with the dog. They were saying “Oh it’s okay.” Finally Andrea came over, but she didn’t want to give the dog back. M told her “We have all the paperwork” and showed her photos of Princess as a younger dog. M showed her the $100 that she got from TR and was ready to return. Andrea called animal control but they never showed up.
Finally M got Princess back. Andrea didn’t say sorry or anything, just left.
I had to walk away sometimes because of some of the things Andrea was saying. If a couple of us hadn’t been standing there or if we didn’t know Princess, they would have gotten away with it, they would have kidnapped Princess.
I told her to delete the photos she was taking of my dog. My dog is my emotional support. I would die without that dog.
People here keep dogs on leashes for protection and to make sure they don’t get too friendly or hurt anybody. We don’t have yards or fences. If you saw a dog on a leash or a chain in someone’s yard, would you call animal control?
People try to steal our dogs. That’s why we have padlocks on the chains. We don’t have safety plans here. We’re not all the same people. We’re all out here. Every day is a struggle.
* * * *
Andrea Suarez summed up in her Facebook post for We Heart Seattle: “The only thing I know for a fact is we bought a stolen dog today and we were able to get the dog to her owner AND I got my $100 back.”
The testimonies above show that Andrea Suarez and We Heart Seattle entered the park with the reckless, uninformed and bigoted assumption that any dog they met with an unhoused neighbor must have been stolen. They found a dog, Princess, who was being watched by a friend of the dog’s owner. They naively and harmfully offered money to that friend of the owner, and that friend was desperate enough to take the money. Andrea Suarez herself was taking the dog out of the park — stealing the dog from the rightful owner — when other friends of the owner were able to intervene. If not for the action of friends watching out for each other, Andrea Suarez would have gotten away with the theft.
Our friends K and J learned from us that Andrea Suarez posted photos on Facebook of all three dogs, with the implication that they were stolen. K wished there was a way to press charges against her for that.
K also learned from us that We Heart Seattle posted a photo of the supposed “trash” that We Heart Seattle had taken away. K told us “That was my stuff. It all disappeared. They took all my stuff.”
We Heart Seattle is only able to continue their harmful campaign of stealing and destroying people’s possessions because unhoused people are in vulnerable positions and are usually unable to tell their stories or take legal or other action against Andrea Suarez and the group. Because our group of neighbors has developed long-term relationships with people living in this park, we were able to hear and share their testimonies, in the hope that We Heart Seattle can be held accountable for the ongoing damage they are doing to people all over Seattle.
In the same Facebook post, Andrea Suarez said “Perhaps we got in the middle of something we shouldn’t have”. This understatement, along with testimonies from residents, indicate that Andrea Suarez and We Heart Seattle continue to be oblivious to the harmful impact that their thoughtless actions have on people forced to live unhoused in parks and elsewhere.