The woman charged with animal cruelty for keeping dozens of underfed, ungroomed dogs in Sterling received a suspended sentence of a year in jail, a $5,000 fine and was placed on five years probation in Kenai District Court on Friday.
As part of the sentence handed down by Magistrate David S. Landry, Carolyn Boughton is forbidden from owning any animals during the length of her probation other than the 13-year-old miniature schnauzer she currently has, and she is not allowed to breed any animals.
Additionally, Boughton was ordered to pay restitution for the cost of caring for 66 dogs that were rescued from property she rented in Sterling. That cost is to be determined by the state, according to Landry.
The case arose when Alaska State Troopers investigated a complaint that Boughton was housing numerous Bouviers and Kerry blue terriers in a bus and trailer in Sterling without food or water.
When troopers went to the site on Spruce Road on Nov. 5, 2001, they found six dead dogs, including four Bouviers and two terriers, one terrier that had to be euthanized because of its weak condition and one that needed to have an eye removed due to severe infection.
In addition, 65 live dogs, many covered with frozen urine and feces, were found suffering from malnutrition and extreme dehydration.
Sixty-six dogs were rescued by the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and all were placed in adoptive homes, according to Diane Zarfoss, clinic coordinator in Anchorage.
In sentencing Boughton, Landry said, "There's no question, Miss Boughton, that your heart might have been in a good place, but the worst thing that could have happened to these dogs was coming into your care.
"I have no doubt of your love, but you were not capable, financially and mentally, and not physically capable of properly taking care of these animals," he said.
The 58-year-old Boughton, who arrived in court in a wheelchair, said she recently had undergone gall bladder surgery and was in need of operations on her neck and back. She also told the court that at the time her dogs were discovered by troopers, she was undergoing financial difficulties that prevented her from being able to adequately feed her dogs.
She had been evicted from the property in Sterling and was commuting from Nikiski to care for the animals when she could. She also said she was paying someone $100 a month to feed the dogs, but the person was not feeding them or providing water as agreed.
Landry said the situation goes to the heart of American society.
"We have had a love affair with animals in this country since the time of the Pilgrims," he said. "We expect people who take on the responsibility of animals to care for them.
"This court, this community, this peninsula demands it. If you have trouble, wave a white flag," he said.
Prior to sentencing, Boughton told the court she was prevented from having help.
"I would never have harmed any of my dogs," she said.
She said she had sold her property on the Kenai River where she was breeding dogs for years hoping to create a new breed of miniature Bouviers. She acquired the bus and trailer and was planning to leave Alaska with all the dogs, but she alleged someone sabotaged the bus and one event after another prevented her from leaving.
Boughton also said she had set up a living space in the bus for herself so she could stay with her dogs.
"As far as my dogs, I would've rather died myself," she said.
"I had the top winning Bouviers in the nation. I was proud of those dogs, and I showed them. I worked to miniaturize Bouviers for 10 years," she said. "I didn't have a puppy mill. I wasn't a collector. All I was going to keep was my miniatures."
Describing the sentence as being geared toward her rehabilitation and toward deterring her from further animal breeding, Landry ordered Boughton to allow state troopers to perform welfare checks on her schnauzer at her Nikiski residence during her probation and said any interference with troopers would result in revocation of her probation.
Boughton's court-appointed attorney, Brooke Browning, said the sentence was close to what she expected.
"I feel in all of this, Miss Boughton has gotten lost," Browning said.
"I'm glad she got her day in court. This wasn't a case of malice or cruelty."
Of the sentence, assistant district attorney June Stein said, "The court was right on point."
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