Nine Alaskan malamute dogs, rescued from a negligent and abusive Montana breeder, are being rehabilitated at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, with several already available for adoption.
The dogs were seized in October 2011 from breeder Mike Chilinski's property in Jefferson City, Mont. According to court documents, 161 dogs were found penned in small cages and living off their own feces. Authorities discovered a garbage can with dead puppies in it, and one veterinarian said he'd never seen such severe malnourishment.
A Montana court held the dogs as evidence until December, at which point they were released to the Lewis & Clark Humane Society in Helena, Mont. Since then, many Humane Society branches around the country have stepped up to lighten Lewis & Clark's load, housing and assessing the malamutes in an effort to prepare them for adoption.
GALLERY: Humane Society of Boulder Valley
On Monday, Boulder Valley became the latest branch to do so.
"We're equipped in terms of being able to deal with some of the issues that you normally see in breeding and hoarding situations," said Lisa Pedersen, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. "If we can get (the dogs) here, we can give them that brand-new beginning and finally get them the home and love that they so deserve."
The five males and four females range from 2 to 6 years old, and, by Wednesday afternoon, six of them were available for adoption. The average stay in the Humane Society's adoption center is less than a week, and though the malamutes are particularly traumatized, Pedersen is hopeful they will find homes soon.
"As nice as our shelter is, the best place for these animals is a new home," she said, adding that, "We're looking for families that are willing to work with some of the fear behaviors that we're seeing."
The Humane Society will support any families and individuals that adopt one of the malamutes, providing consultation and support through training programs.
Lindsay Wood, the director of animal training and behavior at Boulder's Humane Society, is working with the malamutes and assessing the dogs' needs as they transition into homes. She said the training is an exercise in "de-stressing."
GALLERY: Montana dog rescue
"It's really difficult for dogs that come from this kind of impoverished situation," she said. "If they aren't used to being handled or they aren't used to plush bedding, it can take a little time to learn that these things are good for them."
Gina Wiest, Lewis & Clark's executive director, expressed her thankfulness for communities such as Boulder. She said that the malamute case, which has cost the Humane Society of the United States around $500,000, depends on outside support.
"While we were able to take care of the immediate needs of the dogs, we couldn't do it without these kinds of people," she said. "The opportunity to work with other shelters is just paramount to us being able to do our daily activities."
Pedersen, however, thinks that helping the malamutes is more of an obligation than an act of generosity.
"It's a tragedy," she said. "These animals cannot speak for themselves, and they were at the mercy of this inhumane and cruel situation. It breaks my heart when animals are in a condition where their physical and mental needs are not being met. We're really committed to saying 'yes' whenever we can."
Chilinski was convicted of more than 90 counts of animal cruelty and was sentenced to 30 years in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections, with 25 years suspended. He also is banned from owning any animals for the next 30 years.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.