Pressure from the Alaska State Troopers has prompted Carolyn Boughton of Sterling to relinquish ownership of most of her 50-plus dogs, which the troopers say were being neglected.
Troopers announced Wednesday afternoon that Boughton had signed over ownership of all but five of the Kerry Blue Terriers and Bouviers des Flandres to Nancy Wall, a Sterling volunteer with the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Of the five dogs Boughton is keeping, two belong to a third party, one is being put up for adoption through other channels and she is keeping two for herself, according to the press release from trooper spokesperson Greg Wilkinson in Anchorage.
Boughton could not be reached for comment.
The troopers had given Boughton until Friday to come up with better living conditions for the animals or face criminal charges. The troopers wanted to see the animals better fed, better watered, given longer chains and moved out of a 40-foot tour bus, where up to 40 had been kenneled.
Monday, two of the terriers were found dead and partially eaten inside the bus, while two Bouviers were found dead outside, perhaps from starvation or the cold. Wall said several cats on the property also were found dead.
While Boughton avoids charges of animal cruelty by complying with the troopers, the case will be forwarded to the Kenai District Attorney's office for review, Wilkinson said.
Bouviers are large herd and guard dogs, originally from Belgium. They are known for their physical prowess, loyalty and territorialism.
Wall said Boughton's collection includes American Champion bloodlines.
Ethel Christensen, executive director and founder of the Alaska SPCA in Anchorage, said representatives from her organization will be on the Spruce Lane property today to do an assessment of the animals and get an accurate count. The troopers said there are about 45 animals, while Wall said there were around 90. Christensen said there were 80 of them last year when the group was asked to look in on the health of the animals.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there were around 90 of them," Christensen said.
Wall said Tuesday the discrepancy could be uncounted litters of puppies.
Meanwhile, others with the Alaska SPCA are arranging for a heated inside staging area for the animals once they are brought to Anchorage.
"First of all, they will be given veterinarian exams to determine their health and what needs to be done to bring them up to standards," Christensen said. "Our main concern is the health of the animals and to do anything we can to alleviate their suffering."
A Bouvier rescue group from Colorado will be invited in to help with the animals, though the Alaska SPCA will be willing to adopt some out in-state.
"We have an application, but we will not just hand it out to anybody," she said. "They have to assure us that they will keep the animals for the rest of their natural lives and that they will always have medical care.
"We don't want them to ever, ever, ever be in this situation again."
None of the animals will be adopted out until they are spayed or neutered.
"Not one fertile animal will leave here. No way," Christensen said.
Christensen was thrilled that a court fight was avoided. She said if Boughton had been taken to court, the animals would have wound up in foster homes, perhaps for months, before a decision was made regarding ownership.
Christensen speculated it would take at least 45 pounds of dry food a day to feed all of Boughton's dogs.
Christensen lashed out at lawmakers for dragging their feet on establishing a humane officer's position in the state.
"I'm tired of this happening in our state," she said.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has in the past floated the idea of limited animal control outside borough cities, but all the plans have been rejected.
Christensen said the Alaska SPCA, which is not affiliated with the American SPCA or the Kenai Peninsula SPCA, does not need donations of dog food, but is supported by monetary contributions, with no money from any government agency.
Anyone interested in helping the Alaska SPCA can call Christensen at 562-2999 or 229-1435 or mail her at Alaska SPCA, 459 W. International Airport Road B2, Anchorage, AK 99518.
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