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74 Shelties in Montana

There’s been a situation developing in Montana over the last few days that’s got me and Barbara busier than ever.

Last weekend, in the town of Sixteen, MT, a man was killed by a single gunshot and another man was stabbed multiple times and was in intensive care. The Sheriff of Meaghan County stated that “We are not looking for any suspects.” Infer what you will from that. (Sixteen is a tiny non-town located a couple of hours…about 40 or 45 miles…from Helena.)

Although early reports and information were sketchy, confusing, and often conflicting, we now know that the man who was killed owned a large number of Shelties and/or Sheltie mixes. The number varied from day to day, but the allegedly final count is 74 dogs. There is a report of (at least?) two more that the authorities have not yet been able to capture, but humane traps are set in the vicinity and there’s still hope that they will be recovered.

We’ve seen several photos and videos that show a few dogs each. Some of them appear to be pure-, if poorly-, bred Shelties. Others look like they’re Sheltie-Pomeranian or Sheltie-American Eskimo mixes. I’m withholding judgement until I see dogs in person, but it is quite likely that many (if not all) of the dogs are mixes. Pomeranian rescue has been contacted, but we’ve heard nothing back from them yet.

For a while, it wasn’t clear whether this was a puppy mill kind of situation, or a hoarding situation, or what. Barbara has had contact with a man who has been a longtime personal friend of the man who was killed, and he said that it’s definitely hoarding.

At first, there was great confusion about what would happen to the dogs. A Sheltie person in not-so-nearby Missoula got involved early and was originally told by the Sheriff’s office that they would be transferring the dogs into her care. And that’s when we got involved on behalf of the National Sheltie Rescue Network (NCRN). Dorothy Christiansen, who runs the NSRN, has been ill lately, so she appointed me and Barbara to coordinate the effort for NSRN to take responsibility for all of the dogs.

As things developed, however, the Lewis & Clark Humane Society (LCHS) — a great, very professional animal shelter, with no relationship whatsoever to the disgusting and probably criminal HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) — was selected by the Sheriff to take control of the dogs initially. The Sheriff first determined that the dogs were not subject to any legal restrictions. It turns out that the dead man had no living relatives and thus no inheritors, and the dogs were not part of the investigation into the death and stabbing incident. Giving control of the dogs to LCHS was an obvious choice.

For a while, reports we were receiving differed on HSUS’ relationship to the situation. We got reports that HSUS was “on site”, demanding that the dogs be turned over to them, and other reports that they had never been seen either on site or at the LCHS facility. Just today, we learned that the truth is somewhere in between: They were not physically on site, but they’d been applying enormous pressure by telephone. The latest word is that LCHS understands the reasons not to allow HSUS anywhere near the dogs and don’t have any intention of giving them control of any of the dogs.

I’ve been publishing updates on the situati0n to the NSRN mailing list and the ASSA mailing list two or three times a day, as I get enough actual news to pass on. And I’ve been getting many offers from Sheltie rescue groups around the country (and in Canada), as well as individuals, willing to take some number of these dogs into their programs and homes, to help with transportation, do donate money (to LCHS and/or NSRN) for the dogs’ care, etc. It makes me very proud to be a part of the Sheltie community; I think we may well have the best national breed-specific rescue group in the country. And literally everybody who has offered help has made it clear that they don’t care whether the dogs are purebred Shelties or mixes — the Sheltie community is unified in the message that we take care of our own.

I have not yet spoken directly to the Director of LCHS, but I’m assured that she’ll return my call as soon as she has two seconds to catch her breath. They’re awfully busy, as you can imagine, at LCHS finding kennels and crates to hold the dogs while they’re being examined by veterinarians, treating them for massive flea infestation, preparing them for spaying/neutering (none of them were spayed or neutered!) and vaccinating on Monday, and dealing with the press and local volunteers. But the word I’m getting from people involved at the LCHS is that some of the dogs will probably be adopted by people associated with the LCHS and with the Sheriff’s office, and some by local townspeople, with the remainder turned over to NSRN!

As a result, Barbara and I are sorting through all the offers to understand exactly how many dogs we can place where. Once we get solid statistics about the dogs’ ages, genders, and pregnancies (yes, many bitches are apparently pregnant or have puppies they’re nursing), we’ll start allocating dogs to rescue groups and then arrange transportation.

Poor Barbara’s going to be really overloaded, because I’d made plans (and bought nonrefundable tickets) to go to Florida to work on the boat, leaving this Saturday and returning on Sunday, nine days later. Not exactly the best timing. In fact, I booked my flights just hours before this situation emerged.

On this day..

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5 comments to 74 Shelties in Montana

  • You’re going to need more money.  And space.  And patience.  And love…but that you’ve already got.  I’m back at work at the bank so I should be able to help more now.  WIsh I could take another dog or 8…but I can’t do that.  Can help financially though.

  • Any word yet on how many are possibly coming here to you SRU?  I hope that you were able to find some agility people that were headed to the trial in MT that could help with transport. 

  • Nancy King

    I am from Calgary, Alberta and am travelling to Kalispell this weekend (October 8 and 9th) to attend an agility trial.  If I can help transport any shelties back to the Calgary area, I would be happy to do so.  My cell is 403-400-5266 and my email is  I know this is short notice but just came across your post…..I will be return to Calgary on Monday but have flexibility.  Let me know.  Bless you and the work you do.  Take care, Nancy King

  • I know…it’s been two weeks since I wrote the initial post, and I appreciate the responses you gave me. Nancy, I am especially grateful for your offer to transport some dogs back to the Calgary area on your return from the agility trial. We had hoped that we could leverage that trial as a transportation mechanism for the dogs, but it was not to be, partly because the Lewis & Clark Humane Society (LCHS) had not finished their initial care of the dogs.Dawn, your offer to help financially is very much appreciated, too. We’ll always accept donations (congratulations on getting back at the bank!), but we ultimately didn’t have to expend anything but a bit of time on the Montana situation.

    After a huge amount of effort on the part of NSRN, the National Sheltie Rescue Network, (much, but certainly not all, of it by me), the end result is that the director of LCHS never returned my calls and never came to the phone when I called. I don’t know if I did anything to offend her, perhaps by the way I made the offer on behalf of NSRN, but she did eventually talk to some other Sheltie rescue groups.

    The final result is that Flathead Valley (MT) Sheltie Rescue was given 8 or 10 of the dogs (several of whom they’ve already plaed), three of the dogs were picked up by a Canadian Sheltie rescue group from Alberta, two seniors were picked up by Colorado Sheltie Rescue, and five will be picked up tomorrow by NorCal Sheltie Rescue (from Flathead Valley SR, not from LCHS). To the best of my knowledge, those are the only dogs that went to Sheltie rescue groups. The remainder were placed directly by LCHS or transferred to various other shelters in Montana for placement there.

    We were assured repeatedly by the director of LCHS that none of the dogs would be put down because of health issues or medical needs. As it turned down, one dog did have to be put down because of untreatable medical issues, but I certainly don’t consider that to be a violation of the assurances we got!

    All in all, even though NSRN never got any of the dogs, at least they knew that we stood ready to take any or all ofthe dogs. And the dogs all seem to have been given required veterinary care and either have been placed in homes or are likely to be placed shortly.

    All’s well that ends well!

  • The End Of The Story
    Sorry for failing to post this update, but my life has gone to h**l in a handbasket, day-job-wise, that is.
    Here’s the tail end of the story of the 74 Montana Shelties.
    Flathead Valley Sheltie Rescue was allowed to take about 15 dogs.
    Of those, five (I think…maybe it was seven) were handed over to NorCal Sheltie Rescue and three were handed over to Alberta Sheltie Rescue. Connie (the co-head of Flathead Valley SR) placed the others herself.
    Two more (seniors) were handed over to Colorado Sheltie Rescue.
    All of the others were distributed to other animal shelters in the state of Montana for placement.
    In the end, Connie said that none of the dogs were purebred Shelties, although some of them looked like they might be in photos.

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