Border police find truckload of sick, malnourished dogs, cats

Kenai residents arrested in Montana

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

SHELBY, Mont. (AP) -- A man and woman from Kenai are charged with animal cruelty after U.S. border authorities seized their truckload of malnourished dogs and sick cats at the Port of Sweet Grass near here.

More than 170 dogs, most of them collies, and 10 sick cats were being housed at the Shelby fairgrounds and tended by volunteers.

Johnathan Lewis Harman, 49, and Athena Ann Lethcoe-Harman, 40, told officials they were taking the animals to Arizona.

Harman and Lethcoe-Harman are each charged with five counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals, the Toole County sheriff's office said. Each count carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in jail.

Lethcoe-Harman was released Friday night on her own recognizance; Harman was released on a $500 bond Saturday. They have hired a Great Falls attorney and indicated that they will be seeking a jury trial, Deputy Sheriff Pat Kellegher said.

Linda Hughes, director of the Humane Society of Cascade County, said all the dogs were thin or emaciated, two had ringworm, and several had problems with their teeth and gums. Two puppies were born at the fairgrounds Friday night, bringing the count to 173. All the cats have upper respiratory infections.

Kellegher said the couple told officers they were dog breeders and were moving to Arizona.

Hughes said volunteers swarmed out to help the ailing animals over the weekend after officials brought them to the fairgrounds in Shelby.

About 20 firefighters unloaded the dogs from cages stacked in the truck, which was filthy with hair and feces, she said. Many dogs were caked in dirt and urine, and one was dead.

''There was no ventilation in there,'' she said. ''There's no way they could feed them or clean them.''

Toole County Search and Rescue workers, sheriff's deputies, humane society employees and volunteers fed the dogs, separated the males and females and moved them into horse stalls.

The sheriff's office broadcast a plea over the radio Friday night, and by Saturday morning residents were pouring into the fairgrounds, Undersheriff Donna Matoon said.

Some, including a couple of area 4-H groups, volunteered to feed and care for the animals; others brought dog food. By Saturday afternoon, residents and businesses had donated about 100 bags of chow, she said.

''One little boy even insisted on spending his allowance to buy us a bag,'' Matoon said.

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