U.S. News

Alaska shelter strained by 157 starved, rescued dogs

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - One of the worst cases of animal cruelty in Alaska history has sent 157 starved dogs to a jammed animal shelter and mobilized an army of volunteers, officials with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough said on Thursday.

The animals, mostly huskies that were emaciated and dehydrated, were rescued from a dog breeders’ lot on Tuesday by local animal-control officials and Alaska state troopers.

The dogs range in age from newborn puppies to adults and have been taken to the borough’s animal shelter. Since the shelter has space to hold only 66 dogs, the facility and its workers are strained, borough spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said.

“I don’t even remember this amount of dogs coming into our shelter,” she said. “This is a really unusual, rare event.”

The raided lot, in the community of Willow, about 35 miles north of Wasilla, was operated by breeder Frank Rich. Rich was arrested, charged with 50 counts of animal abuse and remained in custody on Thursday, jail officials said.

About 20 dogs were found dead at the site, including one on a chain, according to a local public radio station report.

Those alive “were emaciated, starving, dehydrated,” Sullivan said. “Puppies were living off feces wrapped in newspaper and random breast milk.”

With the surviving dogs at the shelter, “volunteers are working 15-hour days,” and the staff veterinarian has been not leaving daily until nearly midnight, she said.

“Overall, they’re getting the best care possible, with warmth, food and vaccinations,” she said.

Dog lovers from as far away as Fairbanks have organized to send supplies from dog food to lumber, Sullivan said. The local Job Corps group is planning to build 80 dog houses, and the borough has posted a web link on its page to advise donors.

The starved dogs are not available for adoption because they are considered evidence in the legal case against Rich and not healthy enough to leave the shelter, Sullivan said.

But the shelter has been making a successful push to get other dogs adopted to free up space, she said. “Someone came in and adopted 10 dogs,” she said.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan