A Sterling woman has been given until Friday to start taking better care of her collection of dogs, or Alaska State Troopers will confiscate the animals and recommend charges to the district attorney's office.
The dogs belong to Carolyn Boughton and are housed on a Spruce Lane lot about 5 miles east of Sterling. The property was searched by troopers with warrants Monday evening, according to Trooper 1st Sgt. Charles Tressler of E Detachment in Soldotna.
He said there were no more than 40 dogs on the property, though other estimates put the total at more than 60. Nancy Wall, a Sterling volunteer with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Alaska in Anchorage, said the difference could be several litters of puppies that were out of sight.
Tressler said four dogs were found dead, possibly from malnutrition, but none of the rest were in such bad shape as to need euthanasia. Four were given immediate medical attention.
"We've received a couple of complaints," Tressler said. "If she doesn't comply with certain conditions by Friday, we'll have to seize the dogs."
The conditions include feeding and watering the dogs better and giving them longer leashes and better shelters.
The troopers specifically want the dogs out of the bus, Tressler said.
From the road, about 20 dogs, mostly Bouvier des Flandres -- large black herding and guard dogs originally from Belgium -- could be seen tied to trees scattered about the periphery of the yard. Most had shelters.
There also were huskies and mixed-breed dogs in the yard, including four husky pups, which reportedly belong to the property owner. The huskies seemed well fed and had doghouses.
The rest of the dogs were inside a 40-foot tour bus in one of the two driveways. A distinct odor of feces and urine emanated from a broken window and could be smelled several feet away.
Some of the dogs were Kerry Blue Terriers, which Wall said look much like Bouviers, only smaller.
Two of the four dead dogs were terriers found inside the bus; the other two, Bouviers, were frozen to the ground outside. They appeared to have been dead between a few days and a week or more, Tressler told The Associated Press. There also were at least two dead cats, Wall said.
"It's not a normal dog yard. Mine is normal, and it's below mine," Tressler said.
He said the condition of the dog yard was not as much a danger to the animals as not having proper shelter or proper food.
Tressler said Boughton was cooperative with the troopers and indicated to them she will attempt to meet the conditions.
Boughton could not be reached for comment.
Wall, however, was upset that troopers did not cite Boughton for cruelty to animals.
"It's shocking to me that they would give her until Friday to get it cleaned up. What more evidence of cruelty do they need than dead dogs in the yard?" Wall said. "I don't know how they went home and slept in their warm beds. I know I didn't get much sleep."
She speculated that troopers just didn't know what to do with the animals if they did confiscate them.
Wall got permission from the home owner to visit the yard and was there when troopers arrived with a warrant.
"We don't know how many dead dogs there might be under the snow," she said. "And the dead cats were pretty flat, we could have been walking on them. It was horrible."
She said one of the dead Bouviers had wrapped its feet around its tether and apparently froze to death.
"It was pretty gruesome," she said.
She did not know if there had been any cannibalism among the dogs.
"I couldn't tell if something was eaten or was rotten," she said.
Wall said she's known Boughton for two years and knows her to be a loving animal owner who is very knowledgeable of Bouviers.
"I don't know what happened. This is not how her yard looked last September on Robinson Loop. There was food everywhere then," she said. "What I saw last night was not what I saw last year."
Boughton was visited by Wall, a veterinarian and troopers in September 2000 after reports of animal cruelty. What Wall found was to the contrary, that while the animals were living in junked cars, they were well fed and clean.
Wall, who coordinates the visits of SPCA's mobile spay and neuter clinics to Sterling, said she offered to bring the trailer to Boughton's dog yard and spay or neuter the dogs but was turned down. She has, however, placed many of the cats and dogs Boughton has collected into loving homes.
"I've always been welcome in Carolyn's yard," she said. "The Carolyn I've known the last two years loved those dogs and worked hard to take care of them."
Wall said she has contacted authorities from Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Grace Merkes to Rep. Ken Lancaster to Sen. Ted Stevens complaining about the situation.
"My concern is that people who wish to be kind will donate food, and by Friday, Boughton will be looking pretty good to the troopers," Wall said.
"I think it's inexcusable the troopers went down there and found dead dogs on a chain and did nothing. This should have stopped last night," she said Tuesday.
Wall said there are three scenarios that could play out: 1) Boughton could comply with the demands of the troopers and better care for the dogs; 2) she could release ownership of them, in which case Wall said the Bouvier rescue organization in Colorado could accept and place them; or 3) troopers could seize the animals, charge Boughton and wait for a judge to determine ownership. If any animals are in too bad of shape, they may have to be destroyed.
"It'd be a shame to have to put them down. They are very friendly, beautiful dogs," Wall said. "Some are finished American champions. They're gorgeous."
Mary Pemberton of The AP contributed to this story.
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