By Naomi Klouda
The sign announcing fundraising needs to help with the more than 150 dogs rescued in the Mat-Su Valley will be taken down at Homer Theatre this week, but donation efforts will continue.
The theatre’s manager, Robin Daugherty, used the marquee to announce that people could drop off blankets and donations for the Mat-Su effort soon after the problem came to light.
Mat-Su Borough animal control officers acted on a tip from neighbors and found dozens of huskies in dire condition at breeder Frank Rich’s home between Willow and Talkeetna, near Mile 92 of the Parks Highway.
Most of the huskies they found at the kennel were emaciated. All suffered some degree of malnutrition and dehydration. Twenty-two were found dead, troopers reported. All told, the Mat-Su animal shelter seized 157 Siberian huskies and malamutes, officials estimated.
Rich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
The needs were so huge, Daugherty said, that she immediately knew it would take a statewide effort to help care and eventually place the dogs.
“These dogs are going to need a lot of vet care, some will need surgery – it will take lots of money to care for this many dogs,” Daugherty said. So far, $600 was raised as a donation through the Homer Theatre and a few blankets trickled in. She wants to encourage Homer people to help contribute in any way they can because it’s going to take time and a lot of helping hands before that many dogs will be adopted out.
“So far last I had heard, they had only euthanized one of the dogs. Some will be farmed out within a group of volunteers, but for the most part, these dogs will have to be held because they are evidence,” Daugherty said.
It isn’t known how long the dogs will need to remain at the Mat-Su shelter.
After a few days at Mat-Su Borough’s animal shelter, most of the more than 100 seized from a Willow-area breeder are starting to show signs of improvement, the Frontiersman reported on Monday.
“They’re starting to look like they’re a little more active, and I think that just has to do with getting most of them in the care of the veterinarian,” the borough’s Animal Care and Regulation manager Richard Stockdale said.
As of Jan. 5, only one of the dogs had been put down. Stockdale described it as an emergency euthanasia on a very injured dog. But for a handful of the dogs — the ones in the worst shape when the animals were seized — it’s still anybody’s guess how they will fare.
“Their ribs are still showing all that kind of stuff,” Stockdale told the Frontiersman. “Those are the ones that we’re really kind of keeping an eye on, making sure the food is staying down and they’re not vomiting or anything.”
The seized dogs overwhelmed the borough’s animal shelter, which was already close to capacity when the animals were seized. In response, the borough slashed adoption fees to make room and Valley residents rallied to offer donations of time, equipment, supplies and food.
Stockdale said that the only dogs being adopted out right now are animals that were already at the shelter when Rich’s dogs arrived. Rich’s dogs will have to remain at the shelter until the court case against Rich is resolved. That’s a process that could take months. So, for the time being at least, Stockdale isn’t expecting the shelter will return to normal.
“Things will get into a better routine and we’ll have the staff get into that routine as far as taking care of the animals,” Stockdale said. “Eventually, as animals come into better conditions and start doing better that will mean less work for the veterinarian.”
Nearly all of them were huskies, malamutes or some kind of mix. According to an affidavit Trooper Shayne Calt filed in the case, nearly every dog found on the property was either sick, emaciated or dead. Two dead dogs were still chained up. Sixteen dead dogs were stacked up in a Connex shipping container. Two more were found in the bed of a truck.
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