Seized dogs mostly adopted out

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Most of the 66 dogs rescued in early November from a yard on Spruce Lane outside of Sterling have been adopted to good homes, according to Ethel Christensen, executive director of the Alaska Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

About 45 large Bouvier des Flandres, 14 Kerry blue terriers and a handful of Australian shepherd-and-husky-mix dogs were rescued from squalid subzero conditions after the owner, Carolyn Boughton, relinquished ownership under pressure from the Alaska State Troopers on Nov. 8.

Boughton signed ownership of the dogs over to Nancy Wall of Sterling, a volunteer with the Alaska SPCA, based in Anchorage. Seventeen hours later, Wall signed them over to the Alaska SPCA.

There are six Kerry blues and five Bouviers that have not been adopted. There also are three Australian shepherd-and-husky-mix pups and a "rat" terrier available.

The adoptions are being handled through an application process, with animals only given to those who qualify. All of the dogs were spayed or neutered before adoption.

"We didn't want to take the chance that people would get a champion bloodline Bouvier or Kerry blue and think they could start breeding them," Wall said.

Christensen said an Anchorage woman with experience in training champion Bouviers handled the adoption of the large Belgian herding dogs.

Of the Kerry blue terriers, many were adopted by the volunteers who walked them every day.

"They just fell in love with them," Christensen said.

The Alaska SPCA rescue team found 43 dogs on the lot, many of them living in a broken down tour bus.

"They had to wear gas masks to go inside of it. The smell of feces and urine was so strong," Christensen said. "Oh, God, you can't believe the mess. Their fur was frozen right down to their skin.

"I don't think they would have lived out the weekend. Two more nights and they would've been dead."

The rescue team found 10 dead dogs and several dead cats on the property. They were transported to Anchorage as well, and cremated. The dogs died of starvation, dehydration and the cold. Some tried to chew their way out of their wooden kennels, only to get stuck there and die.

Two Bouviers were found in a van and did not respond when the wall was pounded on by rescue team members, Wall said. But one of the volunteers insisted on checking inside.

"We almost came close to leaving them there," Wall said.

After that, every conceivable place a dog could be was examined closely.

About 20 more dogs were collected after the rescue from people who had obtained them from Michelle DeMilta, who took the dogs from the lot before the rescue team arrived. DeMilta operates the Kenai Peninsula SPCA, which Christensen and Wall are quick to point out has no connection whatsoever to the Alaska SPCA, which conducted the rescue. DeMilta could not be reached for comment.

After being processed in a warehouse rented just to handle the dogs, the animals were checked out by a team of three veterinarians, then bathed and groomed by volunteers, a process that took 24-hours.

"One Bouvier had to be put to sleep," Christensen said. "He was too aggressive to people, and was not safe to be adopted out."

Two other Bouviers were sent to a rescue center in Michigan to be retrained.

"They were good with people, but were dog-aggressive," Christensen said.

A couple of the Kerry blues with temper problems will need retraining, as well.

All of the dogs that were confined to the bus or in trailers needed eye medication. One Kerry blue needed to have an eye removed.

"She is extremely sweet and good around dogs and cats and women, but is terribly afraid of men," Christensen said. "Someone on the Kenai Peninsula is interested in her."

She said she was amazed at the emotional condition the dogs were in.

"Some were shy, but I can't believe they were in as good a shape as they were," she said. "Maybe they were just grateful."

Christensen is calling for legislation to have statewide animal cruelty laws and a statewide humane control officer.

"We need people to contact their senator, representative, governor, attorney general, whoever, to get laws to stop these atrocities from ever happening again," she said. "I'm afraid (Boughton) will probably just go off and do it again if she's not stopped."

Boughton was not available for comment.

The Alaska SPCA has documented the condition and treatment of all the dogs, Christensen said, including statements from three veterinarians. Copies of their paper work will be sent to the Alaska State Troopers this week, which will forward it to the Kenai District Attorney's office.

"We'll have to wait and see. The legal end is up to them," Christensen said.

Wall said it is doubtful that charges will be pressed.

The Alaska SPCA has a half-hour video of the rescue and of the conditions the dogs lived and died in. Christensen said the tapes sell for $18, the cost of production and mailing.

Anyone interested in the tape can call Christensen at 562-2999 or 229-1435 or mail her at Alaska SPCA, 459 West International Airport Road B2, Anchorage, AK 99518.

The organization's World Wide Web site, /despair/html, has a number of photographs of the dogs and the inside of the bus. Be warned, the site includes photos of several dogs that died from starvation and exposure.

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